Mirror Box Extensions © Kobe Wens
Mirror Box Extensions © Kobe Wens
Third Space poetic © Stefan Prins
Third Space poetic © Stefan Prins

Daniel Linehan/Stefan Prins — Third Space

Daniel Linehan/Stefan Prins – Third Space
For 7 dancers, 10 musicians and conductor, live-video and live-electronics

Daniel Linehan (concept, choreography)
Stefan Prins (concept, composition)

From Isolation to Exposure: The Ambiguity of Privacy in an Increasingly Transparent World
Today, do we have less privacy than ever before? Or perhaps we have more? On the one hand, it might seem that many people today are retreating further and further into the private sphere, isolating themselves and reducing their participation in public life, staring into their private screens and wearing earbuds to block out the surrounding noise. On the other hand, social networking tools offer the possibility to connect people near and far who want to unite in solidarity around common issues and fight for a common cause. Yet governments, technology mega-corporations, and hackers are finding ways of gaining access to some of our most intimate activity and correspondences, which now take place online, so perhaps the private world of our screens is not so private after all. It is clear that issues surrounding privacy are some of the most important issues of our day.

To quote novelist Dave Eggers, our world is becoming more and more “transparent”. In his novel “The Circle”, Eggers writes about a not-so-distant future in which a Facebook-like company believes that all information needs to be available for everyone, all the time. For this purpose, the company develops a very cheap surveillance camera in order to cover as many locations as possible worldwide, from the work place to isolated beaches, continuously streaming its live-feed to the web, literally making the world “transparent”. This is still fiction, but one could wonder for how much longer. A recent study showed that on average there is one security camera for every 32 persons in the UK, making it the most surveilled country on this planet. Another study implies that we are already close to becoming transparent to companies like Facebook, which can, for example, predict with reasonable accuracy how great the chances are that a couple will break up in the next two months.

Performance Set-up
Working in close collaboration, composer Stefan Prins and choreographer Daniel Linehan will create a hybrid musical-choreographic performance concerned with the themes and paradoxes contained in the idea of privacy. The performance takes place in two parts. At first, the entire audience is sitting in the tribune, as in a conventional stage performance, and is watching the conductor who faces the audience. The conductor stands in front of a curtain behind which the ensemble plays and the dancers perform; there is no direct contact between conductor and ensemble, only a mediated one through video. The conductor’s video image is sent behind the curtain in order to coordinate the music and dance on the stage, and videos of the musicians and dancers are projected onto the curtain, behind the conductor. The audience sees the performers through the video images, in hints and fragments; they witness only the partially obscured surveillance of the performance and have to fill in hidden details with their imaginations. The sound coming from behind the curtain is sometimes muffled, sounding hazy and far away, and at other times the sound is amplified, sounding very intimate and close at hand.

In the second part, the choreography and the score of the first part is re-iterated, but from a new perspective. The curtain rises, and the audience will have direct view of the live bodies of the musicians and dancers. Some of the audience (50-100 people) are invited onstage to get even closer to the musicians and dancers, who at times direct intimate gestures directly to individual audience members. This onstage audience will sit in different small clusters of between 5 and 20 people, getting a more zoomed-in experience of individual dancers and musicians. The rest of the audience remains in the tribune, witness to the more private experiences of their fellow audience members, and vicariously experiencing these more intimate exchanges. The conductor has left the scene and is conducting the ensemble from another room, while the ensemble continues to see him on private screens/projections.

In the middle of this second iteration, another shift of perspective occurs. Tablets and smartphones that are scattered throughout the audience in the tribune are activated, and these devices begin to relay some of the sounds of the musicians and close-ups of the bodies of the dancers in a way that is mediated, yet eerily intimate. The audience in the tribune now has a virtual access to the more zoomed-in kinds of experiences that the onstage audience has been privy to. The phones and tablets are also used as a loudspeaker scattered amongst the audience itself, creating new zones of private space, as well as invasion of private space, with people looking over each other's shoulder to see what's on the tablets.

The performance is structured like a loop that happens twice (except for some irregularities), but the same set of performance events will be perceived very differently each time, since the audience will be in an entirely different environment: one environment largely mediated through broadcasted video and audio (with the exception of the live conductor and some brief live appearances by the other performers) and the other environment largely live (with the exception of the video image of the conductor and the sounds/images from the smartphones). In each iteration, the audience will be privy to an entirely different set of information, with new details being revealed when the curtain rises, and they discover aspects of the performance that were hidden during the first iteration.

With the conductor's video image being sent to the live performers, issues of the power of the mediated image arise. The dancers and musicians are responding to the conductor, but they are one degree removed from the conductor's live presence, leaving the viewer to wonder, Who or what is in control? Who or what is driving the performance? The conductor's image, or the live performers? With the asymmetrical experiences of different audience members in the second iteration, several related issues of power and information are opened up. Since the onstage audience and the audience in the tribune will not have the same layers of information at their disposal (as is the case in the world outside the performance space too), the audience may feel excluded from the “full experience”, but also potentially curious, and eager to talk to the other part of the audience to see what they “missed”.

With this performance, Linehan and Prins are interested in creating a “third space” which cannot easily be categorized according to conventional binaries. The space they hope to create is not entirely real and not entirely virtual, but instead it occupies a territory in between the two. In a similar way, the performance will blur the distinction between music and dance, opening up the divisions between the roles of musician and dancer. In a more disturbing way, the performance will examine the public-private divide, suggesting that perhaps we now live in a world where these two categories are becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish. 

The hybrid music-dance performance and the hybrid live-broadcast set-ups will respond to the hybrid physical-virtual environment in which we live our everyday lives. The surveillance cameras and screens/projections/smartphones/tablets will create a multidimensional immersive space which will incorporate the bodies of the performers as well as every member of the audience sitting in the performative space. As the surveillance cameras reveal the hidden corners of the performance space, the work will address the question: what are the advantages and dangers of this new transparent world in which information is instantly accessible from all possible hidden corners? And is the world really becoming transparent, or isn’t there always something private/hidden/internal that can’t be fully exposed to the public’s eyes and ears?
— Daniel Linehan, Stefan Prins, 2017

4 June 2018
München, Gasteig Münchener Biennale Third Space UA


Stefan Prins / Daniel Linehan — Third Space

concept and choreography: Daniel Linehan

concept, composition and sound: Stefan Prins

scenography: 88888 (Karel Burssens & Jeroen Verrecht)
costumes: Frédérick Denis
conductor: Bas Wiegers