TEN LIVE, IMPROVISED, TEXT-CHAT PERFORMANCES
SUZANNE STEIN & STEVE BENSON
The two of us wanted to collaborate on something, performing as poets together in real-time, but we lacked means to leave our homes on opposite sides of the continent.
On May 8, 2011, we initiated a series of 36 live, improvised performances using a public online chatting tool as our medium. The first 26 performances, lasting 30 to 90 minutes each, were broadcast most Monday evenings through February 6, 2012. We waited six months to perform the final ten chats, in the form of daily one-hour-long performances, at a different time each day, August 1–10, 2012.
We used an embeddable chat broadcast software called CoverItLive as the platform and presented the performances on a page at Suzanne’s blog. Those “attending” this event live watched the creation of poetic text through exchanges scrolling as they were typed, one entry at a time, each time-stamped the moment it appeared. The technology afforded an immediate archive of each performance, accessible through the same page of the blog for scrolling through later on.
We planned nothing in advance of the performances regarding content, technique, style, or thematic issues. We realized that the resulting works might be understood by turns as confrontational, avoidant, competitive, provocative, philosophical, intimate, meaningless, narcissistically challenged, ethically inquiring, epistemologically conflictual, and ridiculous. As a range of possible criteria of valuation were discovered within the medium and identified by us over the course of the performances, none firmly established a greater or lesser intention or guideline for realization.
The work was intended to perform its functions within a theater of poetic development. The purpose of the work was to explore or invent a new practice unidentified with either of our own, or others’, previous projects in poetics or theater, and yet so identified with poetic functions and contextualization as to be irreducible to a specific role of theater or performance art. Our intention was to explore and discover specific poetic values and dynamics through this work rather than to set standards or goals in advance, while nevertheless doing our best to create accessible, interesting, and worthwhile work for an online audience in real-time during its creation, and possibly to subsequent readers, either online or in other re-presentations of the same text.