Research PerformancePerformed in 2021 in Long Island City
This performance takes the form of a Research Trial which is imposed on participants, at first, in the language of a socially-sensitive, “by the books” relational aesthetics paradigm. Emphasis on participation, inclusivity, and the audience as a differentiated public.
Very important for this performance that the room is kept under control. Performers should wear either white lab coats, scrub shirts, or something demonstrably PMC (professional middle class). They may hold clipboards (sans paper or notes) to sustain the promised suspension of reality that performance holds-- meanwhile, extending the non-diegetic aspects of a “socially engaged practice” to the point of felt frustration.
Inform the audience that the length of the performance is 20 minutes, no longer than 30 minutes.
In each version, CAROLAN warms up the audience while CAMPBELL holds the space down. When the TRIAL begins the two switch roles: CAMPBELL reads “Fifty Statements” while CAROLAN facilitates the space.
Version A: In which participants are lined up execution style with a generous amount of space before and behind the line-up. Mark the perceived limits of the performance space— any limit, perhaps there are multiple limiting zones— with a line of tape on the floor, with the aim of establishing “signifying boundaries”. Do not explain what they mean.
Foster competition (participation) between members of the audience by valorizing some forms of engagement and not others.
Possible allusions to a prize or opportunity may bolster the motivating paradigm, but the true motivation will be the imposed difference between those who OPT IN and those who OPT OUT.
In Version A, participants are motivated less by having traveled the most distance but rather by proximity to the person speaking. At the end of the piece, the person closest to the speaker (center) wins.
Version B: In which participants are invited to circle around the speaker with the mic in the middle of the room. Rather than visible goal posts, measure by proximity to the (imperial) center the speaker occupies
As soon as the performance begins, the goal of any interaction with any member of the audience, for whatever reason, is to make them Right.
The research performers will keep in mind:
T = Trust
0 = make the other person L00k good
0 = 100% of time, space & event is 100% correct
L = Listen
During gameplay, there is no distinction between diegetic and non-diegetic information (however, the audience should believe that there is.)
Should there be no doors, a HOST should be elected to bounce any late entrants. Give participants the chance to OPT OUT. Tell them they will have another chance, before the game begins, to OPT OUT. However, once the game begins, anyone who is IN is IN.
SCRIPTED INTRO (CAROLAN):
“We are going to play a game called Liabilities. This is a VERY high level game, and you will participate on multiple levels, but don’t worry: we’re going to keep everything as low intensity as we can.
Cause you’re going to get confused. Like this means something: about you, for you— you’re going to think that who you are (or who you become) over the next 20 min has something to do with the REAL WORLD. Don’t worry. It doesn’t, and it’s our job to remind you that this is just a game even though it might FEEL like a trial.
...by the way, we reward volunteers.”
As CAROLAN speaks, CAMPBELL arbitrarily measures the NEGATIVE SPACE BETWEEN INDIVIDUALS in order to POSITIVELY REINFORCE the TOTALITY of EVENTS IN TIME.
“Unlike the Real, this space is safe. We are not here to judge. We’re only here to measure.
Please begin to circle within range of the mic.”
CAMPBELL pleasantly negotiates any adjustments to the space: people, chairs, etc. while CAROLAN continues to SAFEPORT the audience to a point of frustration.
CAROLAN: “Here’s what’s going to happen. Some of you are going to find your way to the center and some of you might figure out what’s going on a little bit sooner but either way you’re going to have to move some chairs and circle shoulder to shoulder around the microphone.
Please begin to circle shoulder to shoulder within range of the mic.
Is everyone IN? Who isn’t IN?”
The introduction should scale to where CAMPBELL CAROLAN sense the frustration in the room is at its peak: keep talking, keep safe-porting, keep reassuring people until it is.
CAROLAN: Do you mind just staying IN for a sec and then if you want to OPT OUT, you can do so quietly when we finish introducing the rules.”
Notes: Anyone who has a hard time with this— by leaving the space once the performance has started, in any way (including: checking their phone, going to the bathroom, grabbing another drink, whispering, etc.) be VERY empathetic and generous by putting all the attention in the room on them— as if they are asking for it. Because they are. Make them right. Do not be: judgmental, sarcastic, heckling. Only put someone on the spot with love and approval. Make sure everyone’s judgy thot patterns are in their heads, not in reality.
Important: Each performer must be capable of holding ALL OF REALITY for the duration of the piece. Do not leave anything to ambiguity while simultaneously behaving as if leaving everything to chance.
“Don’t worry: nobody is going to get anything they DON’T want! We don’t bite.
Unless you’d like us to. But that’s a… a very different piece.
Okay, so. Is everyone IN?…”
CAMPBELL: (off-stage) “All attention on the person speaking, please. Even if you’re not participating, we’d like you to know what’s going on so you can CHOOSE to be IN or OUT. We need to maintain safe and clear boundaries! “
CAROLAN: “Now, if you do choose to be IN, there may be some rewards in the picture— oh, did that pique your interest?
Don’t pretend you’re not as competitive as you are. It’s expensive to be here. (Empathetic) Do you hear that, people? We know how much it takes just to get out of bed in this city, let alone to be in this room. Sure, there might be no cost of entry, but think about it: you had to know someone here. Then you had to get here. You had to get here on time.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that this is just a trial.
Meaning: there isn’t any. We deal in data.
In a few moments I’m going to pass this script to CAMPBELL and she is going to make some claims. Your positivism is appreciated. “
CAROLAN: “CAMPBELL is going to make some I-Statements.
Is everyone familiar with what an I-Statement is?
An I-Statement is a first person observation that refers only to the person making it.
If you observe that CAMPBELL’S I-Statements do, in fact, resemble you, you may take one step towards the microphone. We’ll go off the honor system— with the awareness that some of you are probably going to cheat in order to end up on this side of the room. Totally great. Just remember to lie honestly. It’s only a game.”
CAROLAN: “We take “one step” to be: a reasonable distance between wherever you were and where you stand now.”
CAMPBELL demonstrates this with measuring tape.
CAROLAN: “If you don’t identify with a statement, to a degree where you feel like you might have to take a step back… then, by all means, take a step back.
If you’re neutral then you’re probably a liar, but DON’T WORRY ABOUT THAT. We’ve already accounted for that, so should you choose to lie, lie honestly.
This is not complicated people.
As in real life the rules might be on your side. It’s just as likely they won’t be. This is a value-free situation. But keep in mind that wherever you end up, that’s where you STAY.
If we play this game again then you might get a second chance to redeem your position in the cutthroat game of Liabilities. But we’ve never played this game until now, so it could be a while until we have this idea again
And if you don’t want to participate, don’t worry. We won’t think you’re chickenshit, but we will notice it, and the people around you will
Don’t read too much into it
At the end of the game, you are going to end up somewhere different from where you are now and it is unlikely you will be alone.”
The statements should be read in a neutral tone similar to that of a spelling bee, leaving an almost agitating amount of dead space between statements as to discourage any narrative associations.