AMBIENT ELEGY 4 GOOGLE HANGOUT ON AIR
VICTORIA ANNE REIS
Google Hangout On Air (GHOA) is a big part of my (performance) art practice. Its ease of use appealed to me as a ‘digital immigrant’/late adopter. I began using it while in BHQFU’s performance critique class. After giving birth in the middle of the semester, as a single mom I couldn’t be physically present in class anymore, so I started performing remotely via GHOA. My first GHOA performance was “Playing House” in early 2014. I incorporated GHOA into other live performances, interviewed artists I admired, and used it to remote-view and instantly-archive artist lectures given as a part of home school—a free art school based in PDX that I co-facilitate with Manuel Arturo Abreu. So! When I learned that GHOA was to be erased from the Google Suite and merged into YouTube Live—a more opaque/techie format—I mourned, and commemorated my appreciation via a triptych of GHOA performances.
Part one took place at LAX on September 8, 2016, right before midnight, on a layover. This performance was typical of my past GHOA performances, and included on-screen typing and different backgrounds, exploring the tension between the real camera image and layers of virtual visual meaning. I also made a Facebook event page and invited friends to view it in real time. This gave rise to a doubled audience—though I was primarily performing for the internet, other travelers in the airport could see me and watch too. This part was constrained to forty-five minutes—the length of a free wifi session at LAX.
Part two took place on September 9 in my hotel room in Cancun, where I was attending a weekend wedding with my daughter and her dad. While the two of them were out of the room, I did a brief elegy, reading from Conor Messinger’s recently-released chapbook, “The Love of God,” while writing impromptu reactions on the screen in cursive. This part was monetized by UMG since it picked up “Fast Car” by Jonas Blue in the background (I always watch MTV in hotels).
Part three took place on my final night in Cancun, on September 10, on the hotel room’s balcony after everyone else was asleep. In the humid night air, surrounded by night’s blackness, I activated GHOA and tried to find the reflection of the macbook screen in the surface of my glasses, a sort of awkward, dark, mirroring mise-en-abyme—a yearning, final, digital farewell.