In the Blonde Room

Authored by Sascha Just

Bourdieu and Deleuze’s ghosts sat in the wings during Simulation: Living the Simulacra, the last event of the seventh annual Prelude Festival of Contemporary New York Theatre and Performance. After an evening of presenting multimedia performance artists, Reggie Watts, Andrew Schneider, and Reid Farrington were joined by a group of performers and producers from the New York avant-garde theatre scene in a round table discussion about simulated realities and the challenges of mediatized live performances. What is “live” anyhow? Can a performance with two flickering TV monitors and a large projection in the back like Andrew Schneider’s piece CHNO2, “a hyper meditation on contemporary media culture,” be defined as live? Schneider toyed with the gap between audience, performer, and simulated reality by hiding between the spectators.

Music comedian Reggie Watts offered a very different approach to engagement with space and absent and present realities. Singing and dancing next to his tiny piece of electronic equipment atop a bar stool (and before an ecstatic audience), he evoked models, imitated and twisted familiar tropes—belting out a soulful romance, for example, while actually complaining about dwindling artist funding. Like a record that spins a little faster, then again a little slower Watts distorted styles and modes, only to reveal their clichés. Through his mocking eyes the light wood paneled Elebash Hall became the Blonde Room, a representation of all that is blonde meaning white—perhaps bland. Or better yet, a model for a neutral space in which simulations are created, everything is possible, even that happy “Goldilock state where,” as Watts informs us, “one wants to be.”

We are a species that likes to simulate, Watts argued at the round table, so there is a chance that we are only simulations, too, living in a simulacra. This begs the oldest possible question: If the edges of what we see are currently being rendered, then who is simulating us? Too bad turn table acrobat, composer, and visual artist DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid (aka Paul D. Miller) was still plodding across the melting North Pole and so could not give his unique spin to the play with presence, memory, and (re-)creation of reality. A high tech artist without internet connection may be an oxymoron, but DJ Spooky’s adventure on a replica of the flagship with which Amundsen sailed into the ice almost one hundred years ago, embodied the topics of the evening only too well. In keeping with the theme, Co-Curator Morgan von Prelle Pecelli masked DJ Spooky’s absence with projections of his footage and diary entries, filling the Blonde Room with the mysterious silence of uninhabited locales. As much as I enjoyed and admired the other performances pieces as contemplations of simulacra, strangely the few images of the pole projected into the dark made me experience the simulacra most powerfully.

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