A compilation of thoughts and video from my Immersive Storytelling class. The prompt was simply performance art.
One of the things that’s always concerned me is the concept of the “social mask,” and what this facade means for each person in the context of his private life. We live in two spheres – that of community, and that of inner world.
When I consider these overlapping spaces, I see the crashing body of a large oak, felled by wind or fire or age, but alone – unobserved by human eyes, anyhow. I’ll leave out the rest of the forest for now.
It’s that philosophical question common in popular culture: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?”
I extend this to the life of the individual. Do we still exist when others are not around to observe us? We know that uncountable fractured versions of ourselves exist because of the eyes and ideas of others, but we don’t know the whole. We won’t come to know everything about ourselves, because it is impossible to know what never ceases to grow.
But what are the implications of existing in a world where these two selves collide? What happens to us when we remove ourselves from others, into our private spaces? And when we move into these private spaces, can we ever completely divorce ourselves from the external pressures of our daily lives? Can we meet ourselves somewhere, uncorrupted? And flip it: do those internal, private selves ever filter into who we present to the public?
We like to throw around the idea of being “genuine” – the “real,” what is “true.” Is it possible that the truth isn’t the divide between our two lives, but rather it’s the mosaic in flux that constitutes the self?
* * * * *
- This video is divided into three acts of performance. As you watch, you are invited to read two pieces of writing to compliment the first two performances.
- For the first act, watch the introductory screen, the transition and the performance. Stop at the 5:00 minute mark. Then, read the poem under heading Performance 1.
- Resume watching the video.
- Stop the video at the next transition, at 9:46. Read the narrative under heading Performance 2.
- Continue the video and watch until the end.
- Once you have finished, I invite you to consider the following questions: What did you notice about the performances – what you saw, what you heard? What surprised you most about the performance? Was there anything that made you uncomfortable? Why? Do you think one act of performance might have been more difficult than another? Why?
I can’t do this alone
But I want to do this alone
I want you to help me but
I don’t want them to see me.
What are you doing?
There’s not much going on.
I’m not here
Or maybe they’re not here?
There’s no shame.
Avoiding my eyes?
Avoiding their shame?
They won’t look at you,
She told me.
They’ve seen you,
It would be different somewhere else,
She told me.
They don’t see you
They don’t look.
Look, once –
They don’t see you.
This is strange.
It’s like all those times you spent
About the thoughts of others –
Your theory of their theory of mind –
It’s like your world became theirs.
You thought you lived there
You became them
Even just that moment
When your face flashed there –
Behind those eyes,
You’re a joke.
There’s not much going on.
They must think I look cold.
This one’s different.
That first time, I was afraid.
Afraid of the discomfort and the cold. I walked with my friend who would film me and I gripped my coat.
I already feared the people who would witness me, though it wasn’t a specific worry – there was no fear of judgement, it wasn’t a fear of interaction. Except maybe the commitment to not respond. I decided I wouldn’t if someone did try to speak with me. I carried, really, vague and mild anxiety.
There was, yes, the anticipation that I would get strange looks. Was I afraid of their eyes? I’d learned that the eye is piercing; we know our teachers have eyes in the backs of their heads, and that eyes can be evil. We fear what happens behind the eyes. We like to think we’re safe but the eyes show us we’re not. The eyes show other think, too.
I could say there were three types of people that day: the curious, I could call them the “gazers” (only one person stopped to ask my friend what was going on); the oblivious (these people walked right past, either ignoring or not noticing until they were in front of me); and the conscientious – maybe they noticed me and veered away, or maybe they got between my camera and me but apologized.
I came in already wanting to push them all away. But they were never really my problem.
The challenge was the sun. I had wanted to face the camera, no expression, eyes straight, stolid. But the sun, as it moved, and as the clouds moved before her, I broke; my eyes watered in the brightness, and there were moments when I couldn’t help but close them. Many moments I squinted.
I’d anticipated an adversary in the wind (it was a very windy day). Eyes don’t hurt like sharp chill. But whenever the wind began to blow, I felt confidence, I felt stronger. Goddess-like. Sexy, even. I straightened, my back, my legs, my neck, raised my chin; I could face the world with wider eyes.