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  • Entangled: Technology and the Transformation of Performance by Chris Salter
  • Sarah G. Marsh
Entangled: Technology and the Transformation of Performance. By Chris Salter. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2010. Cloth $42.00. 504 pages.

Chris Salter's book addresses how technological developments such as film, television, and electronic sound recording have affected the making and perception of performance, and what "socio-political-cultural-economic contexts" have led so many artists to integrate technologies into their practice (xiii). Throughout Entangled, he argues that the temporal and spatial interdependency of performance is heightened through the use of technology. To illustrate this, Entangled traces the evolutions of discrete technologies in relation to performance and performance forms as they have been shaped by technology. Each chapter is named either for a spatiotemporal relationship or else for a particular type of media, and the book moves from mechanization to mediatization in live performance. Whereas the artists of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries integrated machines into performance, the mid- to late-twentieth century drive to utilize digital and acoustic technologies turns performances into multimedia events. Salter posits a history of multimedia performance less through a chronological documentation of the application of technology to performance, and more through a rich discussion [End Page 189] of the forces and circumstances that affected such application. Salter defines this complex relationship as entanglement, the interconnectedness "among humans, instruments, algorithms, and machines on the stage, in laboratories, and through the streets of cities," resulting in "new knowing about the world" through the ephemerality of a performance (352). The book brings together the "embodied, material characteristics of performance" with the technology and tools that he describes as essential to creative expression (xxi).

The first two chapters provide a comprehensive overview of the conversation between scenography, technology, architecture, and performance in the later-nineteenth through the twentieth centuries with a concentration on the move from representational stage space and into the generation of performance environments. Focusing on Europe, chapter one outlines the evolution from fascination to horror in mechanical experimentation while describing how "technologized performance" in all art forms of the early twentieth century "established the roots for the increasingly electronically mediated second half of the twentieth century" (47). Chapter two, subtitled "Media Scenographies (1950-)," begins with Czech scenographer Josef Svboda's advancements of scenography and the ways in which the kinetics of his performance spaces draw on the influences outlined in the previous chapter. Giving equal space to Svboda's European contemporaries, Salter tracks the role of the scenic environment as a Brechtian apparatus "to depict the political-economic cultural condition of the historical moment" (56). He introduces the socio-political tensions inherent in merging technology and live performance as well as introducing the North American "theater of images" of the 1970s, celebrating the work of Robert Wilson and Richard Foreman (63). Salter's third chapter, "Performative Architectures," connects architecture and performance through stage scenography, which experienced a similar "liberation" in the twentieth century due to "the transformation of static materials into things kinetic but also the dynamization of the perception of space itself" (82). Citing the numerous performative architectural experiments by groups such as Coop Himmelb(l)au, Eventstructure Research Group, and Diller + Scofidio, he describes the similarities between contemporary architecture and performance by tracing the history of modern architecture through Futurism and Constructivism, focusing on the concepts of movement, kinetics, and event.

All of this work serves to highlight the lengthiest chapter and the fulcrum of Salter's project, chapter four, "The Projected Image: Video, Film, and the Performative Screen." This encyclopedic chapter examines the histories of projection in live performance, starting with the televisual, moving through projected images on scenery, then exploring the usage of the screen as both "object and site of performance" (115). To document the references contained within the chapter results in a laundry list of fine and performing artists, musicians, and architects. Salter uses video and film in performance as a broad subject that he [End Page 190] continually subdivides to describe the balance between the influences of fine art, performance, and architecture, the technology as performer or part of the mise-en-scène and the dynamics of exploring space and...


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