It’s been a long time that we’ve all been apart and most everyone has succumbed to the screens. Having gone through phases of attempted connection and intentional solitude, I’m trying to engage with more art.
I sit upright at my computer. I angle it slightly to make my background a little less cluttered. The lighting on my face is terrible, but I’ve long given up on looking cute over Zoom. The piece is interactive and while I generally dislike in-person audience participation, I find typing into the chat box easy. I exchange exclamation marks with an old friend that is also ‘in the audience.’ I’m interrupted a few times by my cat. I adjust my seat and get myself a glass of water. I am very focused on being in attendance at this show. I lean forward and project energy through the screen. I miss the feeling of hanging around in the lobby afterwards.
Another night, I have a ticket for a dance performance that is being live streamed from a theatre. I set my computer up on the coffee table like I would for a movie night. I get myself a glass of wine and lean back on the couch. The work is good, and I like it, but I find myself looking reflexively at my phone and have to remind myself to pay attention. These dancers are rendered so tiny on my 13’ screen. In real life, I feel like they would fill my vision so fully. I miss the sound of their breathing, the brush of feet across marley. Theatres are a black void of nothingness for a reason. My laptop is framed by too many interesting objects and potential activities. There is even something special about being bored in a theatre audience. When I’m not particularly in love with a show my mind wanders like during a long shower. It’s an environment conducive to creative thinking. A space designed for creating a receptive state. Can this space be created in my apartment? Within the frame of my laptop? Can I be disciplined enough to manifest it within myself as a viewer?
Another night, I am in the same position. This show, a piece captured, edited and streamed. It’s like a film. The camera gets close to the performers and I am satisfied with the details I’m able to access. My husband joins me on the couch to watch it. My phone buzzes, a friend has texted, “are you watching this?” I tell her, “yeah, I haven’t decided if I love it or hate it.” And a few minute later, “I love it.” And then, “I think I’m just jealous of the production value.”
It’s summer and I’ve created a complicated setup of power cords, positioning my large monitor near the couch with my laptop next to me, my body sideways, elbow pressed into the cushion. I’m in a chat with a group of friends and we are attempting to watch a recording of a famous broadway musical. We countdown from three, press play in one screen, press mute in another. Maneuver laptops and phone so that we can type inane things to each other as we watch. We co-ordinate bathroom breaks and laugh with that manic energy of a slumber party. It’s a show I’ve seen multiple times before and half-watching it is comfortable. I know all the words to the songs. I feel good.