The pandemic has passed the one year mark. It’s been so long since I’ve been in the studio with another person that I’m welling up just putting a rehearsal on the calendar. I’ve been working with Maxine through emails and videos over a month where first I was in quarantine, and then she was. We’re building a performance that plays with liveness, intercutting real time footage with greenscreened images imported into some imagined location. I’ve been staring at Max for weeks on my screen at home. I have a real desk now, and a larger monitor, a pc that can handle my CGI experiments. I’ve been moving Max’s image around. A tiny version of her cycling through various choreographies, being placed over different backgrounds, paused, stretched, colour corrected.
In the studio, Ed sets up behind the camera and a long cord connects to my laptop. I’m still just sitting behind a computer, but I’m in a room with real people. All of us spread out across the space, tiptoeing around cords and props, around empty stretches that keep us separated.
I begin by watching Maxine perform but realize that I need to train my eyes on the screen to assess what the audience will see. I turn my laptop slightly away, crossing my legs on the hardwood floor. I toggle between windows, the audio track, a timer, and Max, working herself into a state of exhaustion framed in a little preview box on the broadcasting software.
When she speaks to me, I’m almost startled and need to remind myself that what I’m seeing on screen is the image of a real living person physically only meters away. Members of the production team in another city drop in via video chat. I turn my laptop to face the wall, negotiating cables of various lengths. I put in my headphones and forget that the people in the room can’t hear what I’m hearing. Max talks to me and I reply to her image on my screen as if she is seeing me through the camera’s lens. In breaking a body into these infinite copies, a collection of tiny pixels, this multiplicity becomes commonplace. The images meld with the everyday and it becomes more and more reasonable to imagine all of them equally alive… or at times equally fabricated.
Maxine and I have spend the past three years dancing together. Lifting and manipulating each other’s bodies. Communicating through physical challenges, negotiating responsibility of limbs, momentum, safety. She writes to me later, “now you hold me through a lens and a lap top and cords of electricity and invisible wifi that all also have their limits we have yet to fully discover… the feats of digital knowledge or computer processing power that you use to carry me and connect me..?”
I’m overwhelmed by these words; the terrifying unknowns and vast potentials of moving forward.