Performance Feb. 12th at Postmasters

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Posted by G.H. Hovagimyan on January 30, 1998 at 11:55:22:

Hi everyone :-)
I’d like to invite you to a special performance Thursday February 12th, 8pm at Postmasters Gallery in Soho, 80 Greene Street, 2nd floor. For information & reservations 212-941-5711. This is the same piece performed in San Francisco for Wired magazines' fifth anniversary party. Please note this is a work in progress the pieces presented are a “first look” and not the completed piece.

Prelude to the Soa(p Op)era for Laptops
Wired Fifth Anniversary, January 6th, 1998
San Francisco, CA

Postmasters Gallery
80 Greene Street, New York City
Thursday, February 12th, 8pm

G. H. Hovagimyan and Peter Sinclair would like to thank Wired Ventures and Apple Computers for their generous support in supplying two Apple Powerbook 3400’s and bringing G.H. out to San Francisco to perform a special, Prelude to the Soa(p Op)era for Laptops. The performance was part of the celebration for Wired’s fifth year of publication.

Program notes:

Prelude to A Soa(p Op)era for Laptops

Briefly, Apples’ Macintalk program allows a user to type text into a computer. The text can be read back by the computer in a variety of voices that come with Apples' text-to-speech program. Women, men and children’s voices, sci-fi aliens, synthetic computer-like voices, a laughing voice, bells, prescored musical programs, singing and so forth allow for a new type of characterization and caricature. The voices function as puppets/dopplegangers, saying things more readily than an actor or performance artist might. These “cyber marionettes” present a challenge to our human sense of self and that of the shadow self. These shadow selves have an honored position in art and myth. They are the Leprechauns of myth or the Puck of Shakespeare. The Apple Macintalk voices are familiar to a growing portion of the population. The voices have become their own personae in the world as recognizable as many human actors. This is the basis and the inspiration for A Soa(p Op)era for Laptops.

A Soa(p Op)era for Laptops, April 9th, 1998,
Museé D’Art Contemporain, Marseille, FR

The cyber voice/characters suggest personalities that are ready for fuller development and subsequent interactions, plot developments etc. By creating a soap opera in which laptop computers are the actual actors we will explore how this can be done. In the finished work there will be six laptop computers each mounted on a robot armature on wheels. The armatures will also have speakers mounted on them to allow the characters to speak/sing their lines. The mobility of each character/laptop will create a certain autonomy for each.

The intention of A Soa(p Op)era For Laptops is to create a society in action. The action/speaking/singing dialogues will be triggered in several ways. One way will be through a proximity sensor that will set off a scripted dialogue whenever two laptops come within range of each other. Another triggering action will be a laptop pecking order. A location on the stage will also trigger certain types of talking/singing. For example, if a laptop moves to the front or main area this will indicate a solo performance. A Dolby surround sound stereo system will create a 3D immersive sound environment.

A Soa(p Op)era for Laptops will be part musical comedy, part soap opera and part pop media discourse.

Peter Sinclair about working on this project:

I think the most interesting thing about what we have done together up until now is the fact that a form, which we couldn't have imagined, has developed out of the use of new tools (text-to -speech and Protools). The fact that you were trying to make the machine do something human, of which it's incapable, like singing the blues, has ironically made the machine more “human.” As the project develops, the voices are learning to do it properly, like children growing up, at the same time the early songs remain just as interesting as the later ones. The process is paralleled by my using Protools as a “musical” instrument. I feel that it is important to maintain this attitude of research and experimentation.

The more I think about it, the more I feel that the thing that should lead us, apart from the way we are already working, is the techniques/rules of interaction which we build into the machines and how we learn to deal with them. Ultimately there will be a set of behavioral patterns which, even if we design them to parody human behavior, will exist for real and to which the operators, texts, sounds and audience will have to adapt.

In what we've done so far the thing which makes it work is the bits where it's naturally unnatural- the limits it can't go beyond where the voices start stammering or the bits where they excel, like a performing dolphin able to do things we can not.

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