HUMANITY

Being Hueman Being // Luke Nowell

Friedrich Schiller wrote that we play only when we are fully human, and are fully human only when we play. In Being Hueman Being, Luke Nowell creates a playful world in which everyone is invited to participate, play and perhaps achieve a state of full humanity.

This world is grounded in his art as a clown - his demeanour, his attitude, even his posture is playful as he has fun with art and the cycle of life. No big deal, he's just being human. Audience participation is crucial. You might be recruited to play a sperm racing to an egg, or to be a flower for a bee to pollinate, or to be a human with a swatter, or to be a bee that forms part of a swarm to sting that human to death. There is so much to do, everyone has a chance to play.

In recent years, there have been many stories about playful workspaces - office ball pits, laughter clubs, colouring books for grown-ups. This trend is not an attempt to revert to childhood, but an attempt to recover an essential part of adulthood. Play allows for creativity: it is necessarily voluntary, enjoyable and flexible. When you join in a game, or run with someone else's idea, you inevitably create something new. This is the playfulness of all performance - there may be rules to learn but performers and their audiences create a new experience every time. Although Nowell begins his show by saying everything is controlled, it is clear that each time he invites someone to participate, he cedes some of his control to us so that we can also play and create a new experience.

- Michael Regnier

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Being Hueman Being - Luke Nowell

Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens - PopMatters

Play is More Than Just Fun - Stuart Brown (TED)

Seriously Playful: Creativity, Being and Play - Institute of Arts and Ideas

The Psychological Case for Adult Play Time - Pacific Standard

Siri // La Messe Base with Aurora Nova

The central concept of Siri, using the iOS assistant AI to fulfil a speaking role in the performance, is intriguingly complicated by the biography of Laurence Dauphinais, the actor conversing with the disembodied voice of her phone. As one of the first Canadians created by artificial insemination, Dauphinais shares some unusual certainties about her conception – exact time and place, process and design – that echo the available information about the creation of Siri by Dag Kittlaus at the SRI Artifical Intelligence Centre. Two derivations of ‘AI’ are at play in Siri, artificial insemination as well as intelligence. Continually questioning her phone to answer the deeper, more emotionally resonant questions that arise from the bare facts of her creation provokes unnerving confluences and responses from the now-familiar voice from the phone. Dauphinais plays with this, the answers that might most approach a Turing-test pass instantly undone by repeated and carefully provoked stock answers.

Fragments of songs and films are used to give Siri the illusion of personality. Familiar touchstones like the homicidal HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, a reference so familiar that it is actually built into the software of Siri itself, are used alongside the autobiography of the performer to question identity, intelligence and the nature of consciousness. As artificial intelligence arrives and becomes part of our lives, these questions become even more essential. Siri provides an anthropomorphisation of external supplementary memory. She is a deferral of the responsibility to remember numbers, the layout of cities or good restaurants near me, and a step towards the normalisation of everyday AI. The performance asks what it means to create it, and to accommodate it into our lives.

Just as Kittlaus saw his creation developed by another, the anonymous donor that provided half of Dauphinais’s genetic makeup is a spectre hanging over even the most technobabble dialogue. Dauphinais recounts how her home DNA test, an increasingly common postal swab, led her to a previously unknown relative and the potential of reconnection. The performance dwells on the risks of pursuing it, asking whether Dauphinais’s biological father might feel differently to now see his anonymous donation realised in a full person as complicated as any other, just as Kittlaus might not recognise the original goals of his creation in the program we carry around today. 

- Lewis Church

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Siri - CanadaHub at Summerhall

Turing Test

Siri Development

History of Artificial Insemination in Canada

The DNA Test as Horoscope - The Atlantic

FLESH / Poliana and Ugne

FLESH / Poliana and Ugne

The performance starts with twisting shapes, shadowed yet hyper-exposed under multi-angled lighting, that seek to start the audience into a conversation about the body, its place in the physical world and its essential rootlessness. Does the body have a place and a function outside of its ‘sensual nature’, and can we find it in the act of movement? Or- more specifically- dance?

EVERY DAY I WAKE UP HOPEFUL / Christian Talbot

EVERY DAY I WAKE UP HOPEFUL / Christian Talbot

It’s one the enduring footballing cliches, parked somewhere alongside “a game of two halves” and the absurdist non-sequitur “sick as a parrot”: “it’s the hope that kills you”. Like all good cliches it invites you to consider an alternative, a refashioning, a making new. John Patrick Higgins’ Every Day I Wake Up Hopeful is an attempt at just such a refashioning. 

THREE JUMPERS / Unearthed Theatre

THREE JUMPERS / Unearthed Theatre

A council worker watches on as a young man takes a running jump to throw himself off a bridge. He pulls back at the last moment. The young man, elegantly dressed, starts to converse with the dry witted street sweeper and the tone shifts. Things are revealed to be more complicated, as things often are. 

GENERATION ZERO / Lamphouse Theatre

GENERATION ZERO / Lamphouse Theatre

In a world increasingly mediated and sustained through ever more subtle technologies, it seems appropriate that the protagonists of Generation Zero meet through an online dating app. Their blossoming romance develops through a particular set of millennial anxieties and rituals. The strife at an unresponded message with a read receipt, the bonding over twee children's literature, the small unfoldings of mutual appreciations and desires.

 

COSMIC SURGERY / Alma Haser

COSMIC SURGERY / Alma Haser

Our modern Western perception of the world drives us to divide lines and shapes into two great antithetical groups; on the one hand, the curved lines and on the other, the straight ones. If the former instinctively recall an idea of organic unity, of a living and genuine shape, the latter can not but suggest the regularity programmed by humans, i.e. artificiality. 

THE HOURS BEFORE WE WAKE / Tremolo Theatre

THE HOURS BEFORE WE WAKE / Tremolo Theatre

Judging by the extreme rarity of mobile phones, tablets, or even laptops on stage, the theatre world has barely caught up with the technological realities of the present, let alone the future. Tremolo Theatre’s The Hours Before I Wake doesn’t step too dramatically beyond the realities of the world we live in. But its commitment to representing a social media-rich, technologically-dense world makes it feel unusual - a sci-fi satire that’s close to home.

PERHAPS HOPE / Company Here and Now

PERHAPS HOPE / Company Here and Now

Circus may not seem like the most obvious medium through which to explore climate change, but watching Perhaps Hope it starts to make a certain kind of sense. What other art form involves so much risk? Where else do you see humans courting danger, even death, with such abandon?