soft cyborg?

For this project I am going to be exploring the idea of the ‘social body’ through the narratives that take place between my body and one of my soft robots; through performance I will engage in the “struggle between a force of playfulness, of transgression of established boundaries, and a force that seeks to police and defend those boundaries.”¹ Previously my work in robotic mask did not fully explore the relationship between me and the technology I used to animate the mask. Before I put on the mask (as some separate other to be put on), moved with the mask on, and then removed the mask (thus deciding when the narrative ended). For this piece I am going to spend more time exploring the separateness of me from the mask as well as the transition from mask/robot-as-separate-from-the-body to mask/robot-as-closer-to-the-body. If the boundaries I am exploring are social boundaries, some ongoing questions I have to explore are:

  1. How do I integrate the mask/robot physically on my body while still retaining a feeling of autonomy?
  2. How do I integrate the mask/robot physically on my body while still retaining a feeling the mask/robots autonomy? Can a piece of technology be autonomous? Can that autonomy be created through performance?
  3. Can an interaction between mask and body be a genuine social interaction or is it best qualified as an anti-social interaction as the mask/robot cannot directly respond to my social advances?
  4. How do I maintain the separateness of bodies and narratives even as the physical/visual boundaries between bodies and their respective narratives become less clear?

I am going to make a mask. The mask will blink. The mask will also have have a small camera embedded into it such that the camera can ‘see’ through one eye of the mask without obscuring the performers (my) vision. The camera will either be connected to a projector (preferably via Bluetooth) and a projection will be shot onto a wall of the performance space. The audience will then be able to see as the mask sees thus turning the Gaze back on the audience. The question then becomes whom is seeing whom; is the visual narrative being projected onto the wall the performer’s or the robot’s or the audience’s?

¹ Marvin Carlson. Performance: A Critical Introduction. (New York: Routledge, 1996), 64.

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