jason charney

Work

flesh of your mirrors


flesh of your mirrors is a piece for two cybernetic performers, the intimacy of their breath modulated by the digital medium through which they are connected. Created in collaboration with Alejandro Acierto.

Two computer monitors stand back-to-back in the center of the gallery, and we stand in front of them, facing but unable to see one another, while the audience can move freely around us. Microphones pick up our breath and words, while sensors track our inhalation and exhalation. We each wear headphones, through which we receive the following directives, one at a time, from a computer-generated voice: FOCUS, LEAD, FOLLOW, HOLD, RELEASE, WHISPER, RECITE, REPEAT, UNISON.

We modulate our breathing or speaking depending on this directive – for example, if told FOLLOW, we inhale and exhale according to the expanding and contracting circle on our screen; if told LEAD, we understand the other person is breathing according to a visualization of our breath on their screen. Text from the Gustaf Sobin poem “Breath’s Reflections” appears on screen for us to recite, sometimes with a breath visualization. While the audience hears everything we hear, along with our amplified breath, we as the performers hear only the directives (or, if told to REPEAT or UNISON, the other person’s voice.) Eventually, the computer becomes a third character in our interaction, not only a controller of our bodies, but also an active participant, speaking text for us to repeat.

While we stand feet away from each other, we cannot see or hear each other except as the system allows, making palpable the isolation of bodies in networked digital systems. While we normally imagine the network as an impartial channel for communication, it can be used to manipulate our own bodily processes and our comprehension of another’s transmitted body. (as in the faulty translation of the other’s breath – the computer may tell us both to LEAD, or FOLLOW its own generated breath visualization).

When the computer finally enters as another speaker of the text, its words deliberately invoke tangible body parts and sensations, suggesting the digital yearning to be embodied.

History:

  • From nothing, a process of making: collaborative works with Alejandro Acierto, presented by Ensemble Dal Niente. Defibrillator Gallery, Chicago, 18 November 2018