Shot from the showSet to premiere at the new Ritz Theater in
Minneapolis in June 2007, 'The Closer I Get, the Less I Believe It'
(The Uncanny Valley of Simulated Humanity) occurs ten minutes into the
future. 'The Closer I Get' takes a thrill-seeking fearless stab at what
lies between real life and the chimera of digital media. Memories and
real life intermingle as four main characters visit a twenty-first
century carnival and take a virtual reality nostalgia ride.
The experience propels their search for authenticity in a world that
blurs the definition between reality and illusion. As they encounter
their digital counterparts and relive their past, they experience a
cavalcade of stored memories buried deep within. Potent imagery blurs
the definition between live performers and digital personas, saturating
the stage with a kaleidoscope of revolving movement and images. The
stage environment is created by transparent screens that allow the
audience to watch the performers through the screens thus viewing both
projected media and movement simultaneously. We immerse our live
performers in a world of future time, where synthetic memory and
reality are indistinguishable.
MPLS/ST. PAUL MAGAZINE
Review by Lightsey Darst
Time Track Productions makes stage images no one else can. This, for instance: a dancer (Kari Mosel) stands, dances, spins. Around her, others dance, some in brilliant close-up, others far off, while fireflies flicker across the space. What you see is a collage, self on self, not feverishly busy but beautifully full, as if you were looking into a web of memory. How do they do it? To choreographer Paula Mann’s muscular, whole-hearted modern dance, animator Steve P aul adds layers of video projected onto scrims before and behind the dancers. Where other companies use animation as a backdrop or highlight, the wife-and-husband team of Mann and Paul integrate animation into the fabric of the work. They’ve spent, they say, two years creating this latest work, and the work and the close partnership are apparent. Dance and animation work together, neither so busy as to overshadow the other, and result in stunning moments such as Mosel’s firefly dance.
But The Closer I Get, the Less I Believe It is not a technique showcase. Mann and Paul use their unusual collaboration to explore virtual reality, the realm of simulated humans and simulated experience. A story winds through the performance: four ordinary humans, seeking fun, excitement, or connection, wander into a funhouse in which their memories are re-enacted and their fantasies of happiness fulfilled. But during a saccharine rendition of the Carpenters’ “Top of the World,” something goes wrong, a la Westworld, and the creepy robot humans get out of synch. And then everything gets confusing. Concept-laden, heavy with irony, the show goes on, the performers grimacing and mugging inexplicably, until the “what just happened?” end. The irony is particularly crushing, as it prevents us in the audience from judging for ourselves. When we’re allowed to simply look into the funhouse, to be seduced by its beautiful images or put off by its ultimate distance, we’re active and implicated. There’s even some meta-play with the idea that the theater itself is a type of virtual reality. Most of the time, though, the funhouse comes to us mediated by Mann and Paul’s idea that we should distrust the pleasures it offers.
Still, there are moments when Mann and Paul lift the screen of irony. The funhouse barker (Nora Jenneman), who has appeared before only as a distorted face, shows up in a crowded mall, standing still, talking to herself about her loneliness. Meanwhile, a woman with baroque blonde hair moves before this projection. She reaches up and takes off the blonde wig, revealing the close-shorn head of the barker. Here the fake and real blend, shot through with longing. In the dance, too, emotion comes through. The performers differ in acting ability, but they all dance with strength and wild abandon, particularly the whirlwind Mosel.
Visually stunning, rich in ideas, but also frustrating, The Closer I Get concludes a trilogy of work on technology and human life. It will be interesting to see what Mann and Paul turn to next.
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
Beyond the Owing
War With The Newts
Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning, Juliet)
The Savage Joy of Breaking Things
The Closer I Get the Less I Believe It
Bankrupt City Ballad
Instead of allowing some thing to rise up to your face dancing bruce and dan and other things