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Elder Clown Virtual Interaction Test

posted on 07.07.2017, 19:07 by Richard James Talbot

The joke Skype at the end of this clip is a simple old game of playing with illusion and expectation. Except that here we can see Kurt Zarniko set up the illusion with Tilly. And they make a meal out of it at this lunchtime performance on 'Dementia Awareness Day'. Kurt goes to hide behind a curtain and pretends he is not there. But we can hear him behind the white screen issuing instructions to the mute Tilly. And we can see him on the TV screen, 'broadcasting' from 'somewhere remote'. We can see that he is not very remote when he pops up at the end to see if he and Tilly have matching hats.

Kurt creates a deliberate obstacle but this provides the clowns with something to play with, and like a lens on a microscope, or a light in a theatre, the screen is like a lens that highlights something that we generally gloss over: the delay during a Skype broadcast: the poor lip-sync and the flickering and frozen images. Here, the non-virtual version could potentially produce the magic of perfect synchronicity, because that is of course possible in live performance, with a bit of practice. By introducing the screen Kurt pretends that he cannot be perfect; he is listening out for physical snags and he is in search of a gag. He is promising to overcome the technology of this rudimentary screen with a masterful display of virtuosity. Kurt and Tilly might time their movements so that they are in sync or perhaps Kurt could suddenly appear here 'as if' magically tansported from over there.

It might be interesting to follow up here with the idea of me here in the audience watching you over there, playing the game. Or player here who puts the hat on and sees a hat going on to the head of someone else, over there. It's a bit like watching your hand rub your tummy whilst feeling your hand pat your head. Sensing yourself and others in a very particular isolation. The hat on your head is similar to the one on me, or the hat that is different over there, on the other, is presented to the head as our arms lift in time together but opposite, as if mirrored – like magic. Is your arm lifting my hat? This speaks to the mimetic, uncanny space between self and other, indexed through the spatial relation of the game, and anchored by the role of the hat as a symbol of disguise and transformation.


British Academy




Practice-as-Research Centre of Excellence