Individual Work
Performing Words

Prosthesis is a voice poem designed and performed by Performer, Writer and Programmer Ian Hatcher Ian Hatcher, using code. The six tracks that compose the poem are available on Ian Hatcher´s soundclound and to each one a name is given (The All-New; i++, Pyramid, Safe Word, Ping (the Musset’s Signal Box) and Not Not). Words play a key role at Prosthesis, it’s musicality is explored in the repetition of speech or just by changing tempo.

Prosthesis is also a piece to be performed or in other words Prothesis is a voice poem being performed by sound. And this is what I find most interesting: is the performativity of the body through the voice. The body gains physicality and becomes present through voice. The issue of body, the physical presence in its encounter with others in a physical space became somehow, in the last few years, a puzzling issue when discussing performance mediated by technology.

Writing about the new theatre that was arising in the United States of America during the 60s, Micheal Kirby presented the parameters for performance: the concept of nonmatrixed performances (opposed to the traditional matrixed performances) and the alogical structure (as opposed to the information structure – which he considered to be the basis of classic theatre). By the end of the article Kirby decides to risk a short definition about theatre : “In this theatre 'suspension of disbelief' is not operative, and the absence of character and situation precludes identification. Thus the traditional mode of experiencing theatre, which has dominated both players and spectators for thousands of years, is altered” (1995:46). Breaking down the traditional forms of performance and bringing forward the connection between theatre and life, by not accepting the “suspension of disbelief,” became the new foundations for performance arts during the 60s and the 70s.

Around the same time when the article was written, in 1965, Micheal Kirby (along with Richard Schechner) had the opportunity to interview John Cage, asking him for his definition on what theatre was. Cage has replied: “I would simply say that theatre is something which engages both the eye and the ear [...] If you're in the room and a record is playing and the window is open and there's some breeze and a curtain is blowing, that's sufficient, it seems to me, to produce a theatrical experience” (1995:51). Sound can have a strong physical impact, invading the body, creating vibrations and therefore implicating the physical senses: “when the sound, voices or music turn the body of the listener/spectator into space of resonance, when they resonate in his chest; causing physical pain; give him shivers or butterflies in his guts, then the listener does not hear them as something that comes to his ear from outside; rather, he senses them as a procedure within his body and opens it up to reception” (idem: 54-55).

Considering Cage’s approach, a particular atmosphere can exist beyond the physical encounter of performers and spectators, even though they are not sharing the same space. If a record that is playing can evoke a theatrical atmosphere it seems to me that there is a problem from which one cannot escape and to which technology, when used in a performance has contributed: one should address the question of perception and the modes of attention in performance production and in performance reception. Technology can be used to displace the central focus of theatre action and to enlarge the possibilities in creating and presenting a performance.

Prosthesis adds a contribution to this problematic. Being the poem composed by technology – “The text of Prosthesis was in part generated and refined with code, and its vocabulary and performative affect borrow heavily from programming languages” writes Hatcher when describing the work – and living through a medium, soundcloud, the poem can not escape its theatricality: when together, the 6 tracks in the poem don’t tell a story as in traditional drama but perform action and therefore, I would say, brings forward a body in performance.

Author statement: 
Prosthesis, a set of text/voice poems, began after a year of working full-time as a software developer, a period during which I began dreaming about code. The dreams were strange, but comfortable, even comforting. The human mind, ever plastic and adaptive, works with whatever input it is given. If saturated with abstractions it will grapple with them, naturally, forging neural patterns mirroring their structures. I was disturbed by the dreams. I began thinking about how illusory the notion is that we can experience things, especially for many hours on a regular basis, without becoming them, without patterns of expectation and memory becoming irrevocably imprinted with them. But it also seemed true that an experience or memory or network could remain distinctly 'other' (or 'artificial') at the same time it became centrally integrated with the self, mapped into the self's map, employed as part of the self. Self and not-self simultaneously. Like a prosthetic limb. The text of Prosthesis was in part generated and refined with code, and its vocabulary and performative affect borrow heavily from programming languages and the aesthetics of synthesized speech. The project has taken a number of forms: live performances, a print book, and the linked set of audio recordings, engineered and produced by Patrick LeMieux.