After money, space is often the tallest hurdle for artists in New York. Performance Space 122’s RAMP is a new residency program offering emerging New York City-based artists a performance venue to develop a piece with supporting tech assistance and premiere it to an audience.
This past weekend Eliot Krimsky with indie band Glass Ghost presented their RAMP work — an immersive music experiment where the online lives of attendees were source material for the three screens in the Chain Theatre in Long Island City.
Prior to the performance, participants were asked to fill out an online survey for the fictional company Lyfe which was imagined for the event. The questions inquired about your memory of internet searches, what sexy avatar you would prefer to be, what causes you anxiety online, a childhood memory in which you feel most safe, and asked you to share a drawing of “yourself in a glorious moment in the future,” and a selfie. Through this information Lyfe proposed to create “emotional timelines for users” as it gets “to know you better than you know yourself.”
“I’m interested in the interaction of technology and how that effects the human soul and how that effects who we are and our emotions, especially how it’s used in advertising and how it’s used to try to quantify people,” Krimsky explained in a video interview for RAMP.
I was familiar with Glass Ghost’s rhythmically elusive music from their 2009 debut album Idol Omen which featured the mellow and melancholic “Like a Diamond” with its murky, VHS-culled video. The RAMP performance definitely felt at times like a standard concert with a preview of their upcoming new album, but there was also an aspect of the audience performing through their digital selves.
As we watched the band, standing among the screens, photographs flashed and Tweet-length phrases scrawled hopes and anxiety. Krimsky proclaimed in his Alec Ounsworth-in-a-haze voice, “I want to live my life like that” while an avatar swooped around a digital landscape. Some of it wasn’t very clear on how it was generated from the “Lyfe” survey and felt a little disassociated from the idea of examining the individual as part of a group identity in the internet age, with seemingly random videos of babies and a glitchy crash screen. Yet the music was an earnest evocation of introspection and watching Facebook profiles be opened and examined or drawings of people’s hopes for the future — from book signings to impossible dreams of flight — had some resonating moments about how much we share online, and what it means about the “real” you.
Glass Ghost were the second performers in the RAMP residency, following a dance work by Molly Lieber and Eleanor Smith. Next is Kaneza Schaal who will execute a theater piece responding to the Egyptian Book of the Dead on April 11 and 12. The Chain Theatre is a compact space, but each of these performers is doing something ambitious in their opportunity to take it over with their ideas.
Glass Ghost performed March 28–29 as part of Performance Space 122’s RAMP at the Chain Theatre (21-28 45th Rd, Long Island City, Queens)