Moving on from their 2018 theme of Competition, RAW Moves strides in 2019 with their first production of the year. Conceptualized by interdisciplinary artist Teow Yue Han in collaboration with RAW Moves Artistic Director Ricky Sim, Alice, Bob & Eve is a durational movement research ‘living laboratory’ hidden in a gallery space at School of the Arts, probing how digital technologies choreograph our movement in society.
Yue Han, whose work primarily explores the interface between technology and performance, first grew from an inquiry into how new technologies such as Tik Tok, gait recognition technology and “deep fake” for dance can predict or affect the way we move. These new technologies have come to choreograph our daily gestures and interaction, resulting in Yue Han’s hope to get people to reflect on such technologies and think about how we can reclaim our daily movements in a new social kinaesthetic. Especially considering our country’s obsession with becoming a “Smart Nation”, Alice, Bob & Eve becomes a performance that calls into question how such technological progress is in turn conditioning our bodies and transforming our minds.
Says Yue Han: “Primarily, we want to explore the idea of the quantified self and this innate need to chart our data and rely on it, like how people go on runs and display their exact route, share it on social media to make that data and proof of discipline visible to the public.”
He continues: “We were trying to figure out the rhythm of such a ‘smart city’ – this supposedly seamless movement, frictionless and smooth. It’s constantly accelerating, we’re on this trajectory we can’t backtrack out of, this constant progress, like how companies just keep churning out new phones and products every year, and there’s this constant pressure to keep going.”
Says collaborator Ricky Sim: “It’s a beautiful coincidence that it still follows on from last year’s season’s theme of Competition, and Han’s vision and my style come together nicely. While Close Company was more of a personal experience warranting an emotional response, Han’s looks more closely at the machinery behind competition, the collection of data in a non-emotional manner and investigate the way we rush around in our lives. Yet through the mechanical, we still hope that this performance allows us to see the man behind the machine, and to reveal the people behind each set of data.”
Adds Ricky: “Some of the movements were based on the way we swipe, flip and take photos, organic movements that we wanted to accentuate and characterise. It’s an investigation by way of pushing their body through something torturous, and it speaks a lot about what we go through as humans.”
Over a 4 hour durational span, the characters of Alice, Bob and Eve will accumulate and analyse forms of data within their ‘living laboratory’, executing 3 unique, workshopped research events. In the first event, a set of movement phrases goes through a feedback loop between the audience and the dancers who personify machine learning logic. In the second, the dancers then perform touchscreen inspired gestures, shouting to a metronome’s tempo in an apparatus of smart devices and statistics, with the audience in charge of the pace. Finally, the last event attempts to address the identity of Alice, Bob and Eve as the audience is invited to optimise and ‘program’ the three dancers for a human encounter, after their identities have already become entangled in an apparatus of interfaces and sensors.
Says Ricky: “For my dancers, it’s going to be a test of endurance. While you don’t have to stay throughout the four hours, we do encourage you to come down and watch how each session differs, since we’ll do a quick rest and discussion during breaks between each segment regarding what constitutes the qualitative and quantitative, as a form of feedback and research.”
More specifically, the names Alice, Bob and Eve stem from placeholder names in cryptography, suggesting that the themes of such a work could apply to literally anyone in society. Says Yue Han: “To what extent are we now becoming part of the system, whether as giver, receiver or interceptor? Each of us play roles within the mechanisms, and watching this performance, we’re hoping that being confronted by these exercising bodies, there’s this discomfort that we feel from a detachment to them. We see only the data, but we miss out on the exertion, the emotional journey each person goes through in crunching out those numbers.”
Yue Han concludes: “If you then extend that to the concept of a ‘smart nation’, we think of initiatives like the National Steps Challenge or how they survey data by zone. We don’t just want to be reduced to numbers, we want to have a live encounter with bodies, and as they move, we learn to understand it, and recalibrate our view of data and the world.”
With the dancers blurring the lines between human and machine, can embodied forms of knowledge such as memory and deliberation be overwritten by scientific and technical knowledge? Find out, only at RAW Moves’ premiere of Alice, Bob and Eve this February.
Alice, Bob & Eve plays at the School of the Arts Gallery from 22nd to 23rd February 2019. Tickets available from Peatix Each 30-minute unique research event begins at 5:00pm, 6:15pm and 7:30pm daily. Each ticket entitles you to multiple entries throughout the 2 days of performances.
Kindly Note: Due to the limited holding capacity of the gallery, please be informed that there may be a waiting time if the venue is full.