‘Be Like Body – Obsolete’ was mesmerising.
‘Be Like Body – Obsolete’, presented over Zoom as part of the Magdalena Online Festival, brought an international audience together for an eye-opening experience. The performance was a collaboration between multi-disciplinary artist Suzon Fuks and six female writers: Amaranta Osorio, Annie Abrahams, Nasim Khosravi, Parvathy Baul, Ya-Ling Peng and Younghee Park, and featured poetry, dance, and audio-visual effects.
Fuks invited the six writers to respond to questions including: How do we advance technology without giving up our sense of humanity? What does it mean to become or be obsolete? The performance aimed to share a range of perspectives on the daunting topic of obsolescence during a pandemic; when the world’s technology use is at an extreme high.
As the sole performer, Fuks opened the show by asking the audience to take note of any words that stood out to them throughout the piece. What followed were the works of the six writers, spoken in their respective languages; Spanish, French, Dutch, Farsi, Bengali, Mandarin, Korean and English. During this, cameras and speakers were instructed to be off, and audience members were set to Speaker View, ensuring all eyes were on Fuks and the audio-visual elements of the show. The multilingual poetry was remarkable, made almost musical by various synthy soundscapes; each author’s experiences and voice shone through brightly. Language barriers were not an issue, with subtitles appearing on screen throughout.
Staged at Vulcana Studios in Meanjin (Brisbane), the set was visually astounding. A spiral design of computer hard drives, chips, keyboards, and broken down desktop monitors and screens formed the surroundings of Fuks, who was at the centre of the spiral. Different camera angles were utilised throughout the live aspects of the performance, each providing close-ups and reveals of the various items in the spiral. Despite being streamed on-screen and out of reach, the set proved to be immersive. I found myself getting lost in the set countless times, mesmerised by individual pieces of the computer keyboard.
The performance space was otherwise stark, digitally interchanging between black and white backgrounds, which emphasised Fuks and the spiral. This also created a distinct mood – implying Fuks was all alone, helpless, and struggling to find purpose amongst the technology.
It is worth mentioning that performing live over Zoom comes with a great risk of technological error. However, scene changes between pre-recorded and live segments, as well as visual effects and lighting transitions, were all seamlessly blended. It was hard to tell which elements were pre-recorded and which were not – a credit to the production team.
The only technological hiccup worth mentioning came with audience involvement – managing to organise the entire audience to have cameras and speakers switched on by command is no easy task. Furthermore, having an entire Zoom audience’s speakers all switched on simultaneously can be a little jarring on the ears. Nonetheless, the audience was separated into breakout rooms and asked to share the words they had taken note of during the show. This segment caused no disruption to the overall performance and instead served as an enjoyable conclusion to a thought-provoking show. It was wonderful, and also comforting to see and hear so many people from all over the world coming together to experience independent theatre in the digital age.
The Magdelena Online Festival has just finished its run from the 24th – 26th of June and aimed to bring women all over the world together via the internet. The performance did just that, and thankfully, technology cooperated.
‘Be Like Body – Obsolete’ provided a valuable, unique insight into a topic many would rather leave out of sight and out of mind, all the while reminding us that while technology may seem to rule the world, it has the power to bring us together in times of trouble.