Individual Work: Grace, Wit & Charm
Grace, Wit & Charm by Rob Wittig uses the "netprov" form ("networked improve narrative"), to simulate an imaginary service in which the very features of human subjectivity are provided to subscribers by support staff. Wittig explains via faux-publicity materials:
Grace™, for a smooth-moving avatar, helps our clients' avatars battle better, dance better, and even shrug-causually-with-a-winning-smile-and-a-wise-twinklein-the-eye better!
Wit™, designed for those with no sense of humor, allows the "online you" to deflect attention from your foibles while deftly landing a zinger!
And Charm™, for the romantically impaired, . . . ohhhhh, Charmmm . . . brings out the inner Romantic you never knew was inside you . . .
. . . because it wasn't!!
Like so many others, you and your personality need the Turbo-Boost only Grace, Wit & Charm™ can provide.
Critical to this work is the reader’s general awareness of distance between the user and his or her online representation. What’s interesting, however, is the compelling subjective attraction of online participation. Though a critical piece of Grace, Wit & Charm is the pre-event conceptual writing, expressed to readers as "promotional materials," "branding," and a "professional" website, these materials only gesture to the core elements of the work: its performance (on Twitter, on the stage, and over livestream). Staged in real-time, actors performed the piece in response to live input, acting out their advice to the audience under the pretense of providing professional service. In this work, audience members (at home or in the theatre) provide the input to which the actors respond. Wittig's role as a writer is in the concept, promotion, and preparation of the event, but his direct involvement in the real time performance is limited to the defined role he plays in the netprov work.
In virtual worlds, we experience dramatized versions of our own expression. The degree to which these representations can prove captivating is the degree to which they depart from the mundane. Often, the degree to which online socialization is felt is the degree to which it differs from one’s day-to-day subjective encounters. This is "escapism." And though digital communication affords many opportunities for escape, it is also important to realize that the escapist element of online activity is not the sole attraction, nor is it static or stable. Just as quickly, the subjective value of escape can be displaced by the desire to affirm and reinforce one’s sense of self and its social, material, and psychic situation. Hence, Wittig’s piece is clever precisely in the ways it clings to this paradox. We often want to inhabit these fantasy worlds, but we also want to be real within them. We want to bring the subjective elements into the real world, but we also want our fantasies to remain with us. Of course, this has always been a feature of human language, the struggle between logos and poesis, but in a richly mediated environment, it only makes sense that such semiotic tension would mutate into multimodal and transmedial forms appropriate for the ordinary norms of representation for a given society.
Performance: Teatro Zuccone, May 14 & 24, 2011