Steve Dixon on “Performing Split Selves: Doubles, Cyborgs and Multi-Identities in Theatre, Dance, Performance Art and Cyberculture”

Went to Steve Dixon‘s talk at the MMU yesterday. Many said he’s given this talk at several occasions, but it was my first time seeing him give this informative and entertaining multimedia talk synchronised to a montage of video footage of work by artists and theatre companies.

Drawing on his 800-page master piece “Digital Performance
A History of New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Installation
“, Steve examined the performance of doubles, cyborgs, split selves and multiple identities in
technological theatre and dance, performance art and online environments. He classified “digital doubles” into 4 categories:

1. Reflective / Mirror doubles: artificial, modern resonance, projecting oneself on screen or in cyberspace, a technological reflection of selves
2. egoistic doubles: he gave examples of him playing a paranoid cyborg
3. Spiritual animation: real-time processing of body movement, contrasting materiality against immateriality, poetic, spiritual, virtual bodies
4. Manipulable computer doubles: live-form robot / AI software interacting with audience, robot figures, humanisation of robots / android

Much of Steve’s performance and production showed surrealism, hybrid forms of human and robots (cyborgs), how audience use touch screen computers to control (dehumanised) bodies, combination of live act and screen act. Such doubly presence, theatrically performed, aims to deepen the understanding of and stimulate discussion around multiple identities and formation of multiple identities, relationships between human and computers/technologies. Technological intrusion could be considered as alien, but “digital other” (e.g. ourselves being projected on screen) could be nothingness.

Good questions being asked after Steve’s talk:

Q: Where’s the body in the future?
A: In a virtualised world or in a virtual world.

Steve said he has am ambivalent feel about IT. He’s fascinated by what technologies can do, but he doesn’t want to be pushed by technologies (neither a technophobia nor a technology-determinist). Besides, he doesn’t think the technologies we use today (in everyday life) have gone very far over the last years. Our everyday technologies (e.g. computers, mobile phones) very much stay as how we imagined them 20-30 years ago. He recommended Jaron Lanier‘s new book “You Are Not a Gadget“.

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