not alone 2.0/3.0
by maeshelle west-davies
April 2020 found much of the world going into lockdown due to the Corona virus pandemic. A year later, we still find ourselves a captive audience with time on our hands. The virus is not the only danger. Our main means of communication with the outside world is controlled by algorithms. It reflects our state of mind. Click on one smiling rescued squirrel and get lots of heart warming animal stories in your facebook feed. Get into a death scroll of conspiracy theory and you may find yourself storming the capitol of the United States.
Live-streamed from plastic bubble tents for the public to safely watch, not alone 3.0 is a durational performance which finds two dancers, two and a musician Isolated from the outside world and caught in an algorithm controlled by artist maeshelle west-davies.
not alone 3.0 builds on not alone which was created in June 2020 and funded by Kulturamt Leipzig. The video work addressed the way we reached out during our time alone and incorporated tik tok challenges and zoom calls. not alone 2.0, was the first durational incarnation and was live-streamed on twitch as part of the Reconnect Online Performance Festival the end of March 2021. Performed in the glass house beer garden of Ilses Erika in Leipzig, it revisited the themes and placed a new emphasis on online manipulation.The surveillance footage from the rooms will be used to create an installation at Riga Performance Festival 11-13 June 2021.
A further performance of not alone 2.0 is scheduled for the end of June at Blech Gallery in Halle. Like in Leipzig, viewers can watch from outside the windows. By placing it in a gallery with a large sidewalk out front and in the middle of summer, the experience should be completely different. This will be live-streamed to VIDEOFENSTEREHRENFELD in Cologne.
not alone 3.0 moves the performance into the world by removing the walls. However, we still need protection. Each performer is enclosed in a clear plastic tent. The world can see them and they can see the world, but they are still looking through rather than at. Each room has a mattress and a monitor. Like any prison cell, the rooms have surveillance cameras. These are connected to a system monitored by the artist. Phones in each room are connected via zoom. Thus all are connected by signals, cables, screens and cameras. Despite all these methods of communication, all are increasingly disconnected from reality.
The performers respond to monitors in each room controlled by the artist. The artist responds to a questionnaire performers fill out in advance. It contains likes and dislikes, triggers and personal history. Since the artist creates in real time, she can also work other elements into the piece determined by what she sees on the surveillance cameras. Performers can see each other and respond. Though there will be some devised choreography, set musical notes and reoccurring themes from the artist that connect from time to time, the majority of the work is improvisation.
We are all in danger.
With more than 116M testing positive for COVID and over 2.57M deaths worldwide since March of 2020, we are clearly in danger. Combine the pandemic risk with economic instability, unpredictably of lockdown restrictions and the lack of human contact and the result is fear and confusion. Add the efficiency of social media and you have a perfect breeding ground for conspiracy theory and the rise of radical thinking. We have witnessed this with the Querdenken demonstrations on 7 November. Around 20,000 people took to the streets. A mix of older people who lived in the GDR, new agers and the far right, these people don’t trust the intentions of the government. They not only endangered themselves, but others.
In not alone 3.0 we expose how the vulnerable can be led. The internet gives people the illusion that they are researching and the sources they refer to are credible. Theconversation.com explains it well.
“There is an adage amongst online conspiracy theorists – do your own research. This encourages those involved to seek out validation of their ideas from sources which refute the “official” narrative. Engaging in contemporary conspiracy theories therefore has a game-like quality. People are encouraged to “discover” information promoted through their online networks rather than passively accept data and facts produced by established sources. Research tells us that any evidence presented to the contrary, no matter how compelling, is unlikely to be accepted, and indeed, might even be taken as evidence in favour of the conspiracy theory. More importantly, following these beliefs necessarily means adopting a distrustful orientation towards public institutions and scientific evidence.”
not alone directed by maeshelle west-davies // 2020 // 20 minutes 20 sec
Distance is taking on new properties during lockdown. Someone across the world is just as close as someone down the street. You don’t have to be alone when you can share a split screen. Instagram and TikTok challenges are bringing people together. not alone is a performative video that finds a harpist and two dancers responding to each other, despite each being in the same room at different times.
COVID 19 restrictions of only two people being allowed in the room at a time made it the perfect situation to shoot not alone. The all white rehearsal room is a sterile space in which to “isolate.” People worldwide are communicating through the universal languages of image and movement. In not alone, I bring together harpist Babett Niclas and dancers, Lou Thalbart (Leipzig Ballet) and Donna-Mae Burrows (former Leipzig Ballet) to perform devised choreography and sound based on current social media challenges. The work reflects the responses and delays created by technical devices as well as the aftermath of feelings left when no one is answering. The three performers were specifically chosen for their range of classical and modern training. This timelessness serves to remind us of human resilience despite our frailty.
For all my projects extensive research informs the framework, providing a strong skeleton for experimentation. Filming was an integral part of the musical and choreographic process. I worked closely with Babett, Lou and Donna to allow them to contribute to the raw footage. In the end, the editing process determined the outcome. This piece can only be seen on film. Any live performance would be something different.
As with all my work, there is no judgement. This is merely an autobiographical portrait of life in our time. I try to show things as simply as possible in order for people to get what they need. Lockdown has brought the world closer together while making those in our immediate vicinity seem further away. The common languages of dance and music can bridge the gap.