Love, the machine and Marcel Proust
Curated by Alexandra Laudo (Heroínas de la Cultura)
“(…) locked in his flat in Paris, perhaps lying in bed, surrounded by pillows, wrapped in warm clothes, Marcel Proust listens by telephone to the transmission of an opera. (…) Proust, enthusiast of each and every one of the most modern inventions of his time – the telephone, the airplane, the car … – had subscribed to a recent novelty that allowed to attend the opera, the theater or to a concert without having to leave the house, and that despite its success has been erased from our technological memory, although it had a very promising name: the theatrophone.”
Excerpt from Antonio Muñoz Molina’s article “Between Wagner and Proust”, published in El País on April 9th, 2013.
As the writer Antonio Muñoz Molina explains, Marcel Proust was one of many fans of Theatrophone, a service for the transmission of operas, concerts and plays by telephone that was operational in some cities in Europe between 1880 and 1932. The Theatrophone, that as a device could be considered a predecessor of the iPod, and that as a service it anticipates current platforms for the transmission of musical content, such as the popular Spotify, was one of these outstanding inventions – but also forgotten – of the history of the relations between technology and culture. A device such as Theatrophone, in addition to promoting streaming access to certain musical content, promoted a relationship of proximity or even intimacy with the machine, with the mediator, and in some way anticipated the structural and dependent relationship that in our daily lives we have with certain technological devices, which largely articulate our relationship with the world and with others.
Over time, the devices have mediated the access that humans have to certain artistic manifestations. Devices such as gramophones, radio cassettes, discman, iPods, movie projectors, televisions, tablets, personal computers, Kindles and smartphones have been the medium and often also the support that has allowed us to listen to music, watch movies or read literary texts. This mediation has often been understood on a strictly technological level, but it is interesting to think it also in creative and authoring terms: in its mediation and reproduction function, the machine becomes an agent that also intervenes in the contents and artistic discourse. It is also pertinent to think about this use of the machine in affective terms: in the relations of proximity and almost intimacy that we establish with certain devices, they model the way we interact with the world and with others and influence our way of loving. Currently, in addition, robots are increasingly integrated into the world of work and production, and many theorists predict a future in which artificial intelligence will replace human work in many labor spheres and in many areas of our lives. In this context, it is perhaps appropriate to ask about the performative agency of the machine and its ability to think and operate artistically.
Can robots be artists? Can they be performers? When we learn to love art, the world and others through machines, are we also learning to love them? And the machines, will they learn to love us?
Love, the machine and Marcel Proust is an attempt to think about these issues from artistic speculation, humor and melancholy. Each of the performances that make up this program has as its central element one or more devices belonging to the history of technology of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: a computer, a smartphone, a Tamagotchi, an artificial intelligence robot… the program takes as a symbolic reference the image of the French writer listening to opera through a telephone to question the nature of the performance and the agencies that can carry it out, and to inquire into the relationships between individual, machine, art and love.
Laura Llaneli – Lovelace
In Lovelace, Laura Llaneli composes live music using codes of computer programming and free software, while talking about language and its limitations to designate reality, the differences between the human voice and the machine voice, and about the relations of eroticism and seduction that we establish through text and speech.
Lovelace is the last name of Ada Lovelace (1815 – 1852), an English mathematician and physicist considered the first programmer in history, author of the first algorithm. Lovelace is also the surname of Linda Lovelace, porn film actress and protagonist of the film Deep Throat (1972), a reference in this film genre. The lastname Lovelace, in its evocation of a lace of love, a love thread or love line, serves Llaneli to relate the programming language of computers to Roland Barthes’s theories about text, pleasure and desire.
Connecting these multiple and diverse references, Laura Llaneli’s performance talks about computational code, text, eroticism and love from feminism and language politics.
Mar Medina – Manejar el hacer líquido de forma indisciplinada (where thought is action and body is text)
Mar Medina’s performative work draws on her studies in Art History and her training as a dancer at an international level, and investigates the ability of the body and movement to articulate a sensitive, non-verbal discourse, where thought is action and body is text. Manejar el hacer líquido de forma indisciplinada is a performative work that relies on the movement and use of different electronic devices (among others, a Korg midi controller, a microphone, sound cards, a wireless mouse and a massage machine) to activate a progressively generated sound composition, by accumulation of sounds. Despite being a piece performed by a single human being – Medina herself – the author emphasizes that it is not a solo, but a choreography performed by her and by all the devices she uses on stage, in which she recognizes a performative agency of its own that creatively affects the final proposal.
Idea and action: Mar Medina.
Sound design: Tirso Orive.
Kay Schuttel – Stand by
Stand by is a performance conceived with a time-based structure staged by six young dancers in an art gallery. Located in a space intially inaccessible, the performers use laptops, mobiles and tablets under the gaze of the public. Depsite the aparent separation between actors and audience, the visitors are recorded to finally appear on the devices of the performers. The performance blurs and rewrites the role of the audience, and the act of reversing the point of view turns the nature of the event. A shift that finally materialize itself when the audience is allowed to enter inside the scene, a cold and empty space, deprived of furniture, illuminated by the light of the devices. Adaptation of a text by Alessandra Franetovich.
In collaboration with Homesession, Barcelona
Daniel Moreno Roldán – Goodbye, my sunny child (Life is brief)
Goodbye, my Sunny Child (Life s brief) is a monologue-concert that invites us to think about the emotional relationships we establish with some digital devices and about the idea of death in virtual environments. This proposal, of a paratheatrical nature, is led by a tamagotchi, a digital pet that turned to be a very popular toy in the late 90s.
The impulse to develop this project is based on the research that the engineer Natalie Silvanovich is carrying out to decipher the code and the operation of the tamagotchis, within the framework of which it has tried to resurrect some, all with the will to understand what could be the “meaning of life” of these pets. The artist has also found inspiration in the “Tamagotchi Memorial”, an Internet forum where people remember their dead virtual pets.
On stage, a performer manipulates one of these toys while Sunnytchi, the tamagotchi who stars in the action, addresses us shortly before he dies and recalls some passages of his life as a digital being. At the end of the monologue, Sunnytchi and the artist perform a musical theme duet, a version of Gondola No Uta (life is Brief), which appears in the film Ikiru (Living), by Akira Kurosawa.
Irene Solà + Estampa – M’has parlat i t’he dit que et vaig dir que no et digui
The artistic collective Taller Estampa has carried out an investigation on the automatic learning processes of robots with artificial intelligence and their possible applications in artistic creation, making use of tools such as neural networks of deep learning. His practice promotes a demystifying vision of these intelligences, proposing non-normative uses that give rise to disruptive and unexpected functionalities.
Visual artist and writer Irene Solà – winner of the Documenta Prize 2017 and the Anagrama Prize for Novel in Catalan- investigates the processes of narrative construction and the relationships between image and text through her literary and artistic practice.
For SWAB Performance, Irene Solà and Taller Estampa have carried out a joint project based on an epistolary correspondence between the writer and a robot (a neural network of deep learning), which has been trained with a dataset consisting mainly of letters between writers of different times. In this correspondence, which has been developed throughout the summer, the writer and the machine have shared anecdotes and memories, have reflected on aspects related to literature, the construction of identity and the creation of characters, and on many issues, some described more intelligibly than others. The robot, which Solà has named “M”, has gradually revealed his idiosyncrasy and his particular way of understanding literature and correspondence.
In SWAB, a selection of the letters between Irene Solà and “M” will be staged, which will also be part of a digital repository accessible to the public.
Date: Saturday, September 28th, 8 pm
Approximate duration: 15 minutes
Pedro Torres – Half-moon-black
Pedro Torres’ performative proposal is addressed to a small group of participants and consists of an audio-walk or guided tour through an audio track through some places near the fair.
Throughout the tour, the participants will have their eyes covered and Throughout the tour, the participants will have their eyes covered, and through headphones connected to the artist’s phone, they will hear a sound story made with historical, scientific and mythological references, as well as quotes from texts about visual culture. The narrative allows the artist to talk about aspects related to image and vision, as well as different devices that throughout history have been associated with the act of looking and the action of obtaining images, such as the telescope, the Polaroid camera or smartphones.
By depriving ourselves of the sense of vision – the one that mainly helps us to orient ourselves in the environment – other more intuitive ways of circulating in space are encouraged: body awareness is reinforced and the sense of hearing is sharpened. At the same time, the smartphone – a device that, despite being a telephone, is rarely used to make calls – once again becomes relevant as a sound device related to listening and voice.
A program with the collaboration of: