- On-Line Simulations/Real-Life PoliticsA Discussion with Ricardo Dominguez on Staging Virtual Theatre
Electronic Disturbance Theater's actions since 1998 have become the focus of intense interest in the field of performance studies. It would seem that EDT is being viewed as an ideal bridge between disparate worlds. Unlike other kinds of virtual performance that are fixated on the interface of bodies and machines in strictly formal terms, EDT's work stresses how the Internet is a dramatic scenario that can facilitate social and political engagement with issues in the offline world. Whereas much Latin American performance and theatre that is celebrated as representative of a distinct cultural identity relies on ethnographic or folkloric representations of "nativeness," EDT's support for Zapatismo combines the political struggle for indigenous self-determination with a critique of neoli-beralism. What is your point of view about the explosion of academic interest in EDT's work?
There has been a proliferation of analysis of EDT in different academic communities: in the fields of new media and robotics, art history, performance studies, electronic politics, virtual architecture, urban studies, and recently globalization studies. We have also been examined by experts on information war and security and the RAND Corporation. This is an outcome of EDT's insistence that what we do is a type of performance that is similar to the agitprop theatre of the last century. The strange attractor for each of these academic groups is that EDT is not only using the latest technology, i.e., the Internet, but that our work negates the dominant ideologies that surround this technology's politics, distribution, and "commodification."
EDT's gestures offer a different form of social embodiment for the networks. We have also argued that we do not have to accept "communication and documentation" as the only options open to nonspecialists for interaction with the networks. We proposed that the Internet can become a "decisive" zone to articulate [End Page 151] what is most needed by those who have the least in the 21st century. EDT's performance is about disobedience in a lived social reality being felt on-line. It is this particular dramatic twist that has created such a strong response among scholars. Other issues surrounding EDT have also become points of interest: traditional/ nontraditional, mimetic/nonmimetic, body/machine, nativeness/globalization, material/immaterial, real/simulation, activist/hacker, agent/swarm, actors/audience, info-peace/info-war, streets/networks, and Zapatismo/neoliberalism are just some of the binary categories EDT explores.
Each sector traces out a different map of how EDT's performative matrix shifts and implodes this series of social dramas/traumas. Each binary offers scholars a topology of the social spine that a particular actor/audience network manifests during a performance. EDT's staging of its performances also allows the academic audience to see a disturbance take place in each specific actor/audience network. The actions force a rethinking of their own networked subjectivity as "hackers," "activists," "actors," and "audiences." EDT's staging compels these actor/audience networks to encounter each other. In other words, members of each group face a challenge to their identity: hackers used to secrecy have to "come out," activists committed to working in the street meet on-line, and actors and audiences accustomed to purely fictional representations of reality with no social repercussions to their engagement find themselves in a simulation that does have a visible impact on the social.
The disturbance of each binary also creates a different response within each group. For the hacker community, EDT's gestures create awareness that something outside of code is relevant. For hackers this was simply not a matter of concern, as is the case for many actors who are only interested in the formal aspects of theatre and its particular history. Suddenly, with a FloodNet action, they face a code that simulates code and pushes code toward real structural inadequacies that cannot be resolved by code. They also become aware that bodies outside the networks can stage an immaterial presence as a united mass of electronic bodies. One can see how using agitprop theatre via the simulation of code...