This TED-talk inspired performance finds Paul Abacus, a white, American male 'presenting' to the audience, accompanied by two Stedicam camera operators, with a huge screen as backdrop. The content of the presentation is informed by the work of 20th century inventor and visionary, R. Buckminster Fuller, who worked as a 'comprehensive anticipatory design scientist' to solve global problems, towards the creation of a sustainable planet.
A performance is an unsettlingly polished journey through a researched set of statistics of how things have changed in relation to the planet and population over the past 250 years, with highly produced visuals on screen illustrating the facts and figures enthusiastically being fed to us covering a broad range of topics: from organic gardening, to attendance in Catholic schools, to who owns how many shares of the moon and the north pole. We are told that screens are the new religion and asked questions about the implications of that; how does our screen obsession affect our future as a human race? We as audience are included in the potential consequences of what is taking place on a global and Universal level, and forced to take responsibility for our part in what is happening. 'Do we want another dark age', Abacus asks, because apparently we could be heading towards one.
Abacus confronts us, and includes us in his existential questioning about life and freedom, believing that the planet is approaching a seismic shift. The images on the screen change constantly, alternating between the polished graphics and live feeds coming from the Steadicams, which Abacus speaks directly to, so his projection is both addressing the audience and then he switches into directly talking to us, so we see him from all angles, both virtually and in the flesh. As the outcome of the research is delivered continually in this manner, the pace of the presentation builds to what is either a crescendo or a rollercoaster ride, and we are given the option to climb aboard and scream with Abacus. This is the age of the screen. And we are left wondering what the implications of all the Age of the Screen on national borders, immigration crises, natural disasters, governments, and the way are bodies are, or are not, prepared to deal with this age. There will be something post-Screen, certainly, but this remains uncertain. And just as we never know the irony or genuineness of Abacus’ presentation, as audience members we embody that uncertainty – wowed by the speed and the graphics and the movement and also questioning their reality. (CL)
ABACUS, Early Morning Opera, 7-30 August (various dates). Summerhall. Please contact venue for accessibility. https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/abacus
More from Early Morning Opera: earlymorningopera.com
On R. Buckminster Fuller: https://bfi.org/about-fuller
TED Talk by Nicholas Negroponte on The Future: http://www.ted.com/talks/nicholas_negroponte_a_30_year_history_of_the_future?language=en