In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Performing Left and Right
  • Ioana B. Jucan (bio), Roopa Vasudevan (bio), Anthony Glyn Burton (bio), Tong Wu (bio), and Yuguang (YG) Zhang (bio)

Introduction

How is the construction and performance of political identity shaped by algorithms and technological platforms? How can we use online theatre performance to expose and push against prescribed political identities that fuel polarization? Can we repurpose technological tools that sustain machinic homophily and media manipulation towards this end? What possibilities do online spaces hold for live theatre performance and audience engagement? The following collection of short video essays addresses these questions by engaging with Left and Right, Or Being who/where you are, an online devised performance presented by the Brown Arts Initiative and Re-Fest, an art and technology festival, in 2021. A ninety-minute, online performance, Left and Right used the digital platform ohyay to bring together audience members from Brazil, Canada, Germany, Portugal, Romania, South Korea, Turkey, and the United States in order to feel and think through political divides and polarization through a transnational perspective.

The concept of the performance emerged out of performance scholar and artist Ioana Jucan's work with the Beyond Verification research team of the Digital Democracies Institute at Simon Fraser University, led by media scholar Wendy Chun. The performance was developed in collaboration with Beyond Verification researchers, as well as an international team of artists and creative technologists working across different disciplines. Left and Right aimed to both extend the team's cross- and inter-disciplinary research through embodied practice and to disseminate the team's findings to a broader audience. In this way, Left and Right participates in research-creation and sits within the tradition of Practice as Research/Performance as Research, which—as scholars Owen Chapman and Kim Sawchuk express—offers "an epistemological intervention on the level of academic methodology" that "partakes of the spectacle of the work of art and [End Page E-10] its demonstration of alternative frameworks for understanding, communicating, and disseminating knowledge."1

In this way, Left and Right explores both the algorithmically-sustained, emotion- driven production of polarization and the possibilities that the online space, mediated bodies, and machine-generated actors hold for live performance. The video essays below serve to build on and disseminate our findings in working collaboratively on this performance. As members of Left and Right's creative team, the authors of these video essays present their thoughts and reflections through a video essay format in an attempt to show rather than tell: to put the concepts and issues they tackle into performative play with the aid of the audio-visual medium in a way that gives the readers/viewers a richer experience of both Left and Right itself and of the theoretical argument and critical-creative space explored by the performance.

Left and Right, Or Being who/where you are: A Summary

Left and Right featured conversations on so-called hot-button topics and complex realities centered around the COVID-19 pandemic and immigration. These conversations were performed by both human actors and bots—computer programs that simulate a human activity (conversation, in the case of this performance). The world of the performance is centered around three characters, whom the actors introduce in the opening scene:

Maitê Stédile (played by Brazilian multimedia artist and creative technologist Marcela Mancino): "She's 22 years old, Brazilian, and was studying acting in the US until the pandemic hit. She is a white, cisgender woman, proudly bisexual, feminist, antiracist, vegan, and zero waste. She is a big fan of Djamila Ribeiro, Sabrina Fernandes, and Grada Kilomba."2

Sean Lin (played by US theatre artist Patrick Elizalde): He "became friends with Maitê through their mutual involvement in college theatre. He is 24 years old, Christian, a 2nd generation Taiwanese-American from Flushing, NY, and is now working at a top consulting firm in Boston."3

Mara Stan (played by Romanian actors Andra Jurj and Fabiola Petri): She "is a 29-year old Romanian woman, secretly bisexual, Eastern Orthodox by birth. She is a psychiatrist, but wants to become an actor."4 She represents the "Exhausted Majority."5 She had met Maitê and Sean at the international theatre festival in her...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-332X
Print ISSN
0192-2882
Pages
pp. E-9-E-14
Launched on MUSE
2021-10-04
Open Access
No
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