The Information vs. Memory workshop aims to promote the coexistence of humanities, science and technology in a performative context. Based on previous research carried out by various entities invited by the Èpica Foundation and specialized in different disciplines (neuroscience, biology, gastronomy, supercomputing, active aging…), workshop participants will develop a polivocal work that will culminate in a final performance before an audience.
We live in the information age: new technologies, networks and media play a fundamental role in social, cultural and economic activities. Although these developments involve all kinds of facilities and comforts, they can easily become a double-edged sword. To what extent are we aware of the manipulation of information by the media? Are we capable of altering our own memories through the data we store, publish and edit? How do social networks affect our identity? How can we structure our own information when nowadays a single person is able to generate more content than that which before could be found in a library?
All these questions are presented as open concepts to reflect throughout the workshop. Invited researchers will make their inquiries and proposals in order to provide a jumping off point which, with the arrival of the participants, will be complemented and enriched through brainstormings and actions.
La Fura dels Baus’ Èpica Foundation is a center of multidisciplinary creation around the performing arts, so the dialogue between humanities, science and technology is one of its fundamental principles. The exchange of knowledge, experiences and research done by the professionals involved will be paramount for the development of the workshop.
In addition to the merging of talents, another pillar of the Èpica Method is to work in action: beyond theories and reflections on concepts, most research and developments will come when they are put into practice. Exercises, tests and improvisations will be present in the workshop from its very inception and will inform the workflow.
Another of Èpica Foundation’s contributions will be Kalliope, the flagship mobile application in their performances. This app, designed especially for real-time audience interaction, offers a second narrative to the spectators: it complements the main plot of the show, guides the public through spaces and gives them advice and instructions on how to relate to their environment.
The subject matter, although defined, remains open to all types of questions. How does our brain store memories? How long do they take to form? How do they make us create expectations before new experiences? Can we alter our own memory through the data we store?
The invited experts take advantage of all these issues and reach several common themes, which in turn pose new challenges in the face of the final performance. For example, several conversations revolve around the creation of false memories. Is it possible to convince the assistants that something that never happened has actually happened? Can all the members of an audience be conditioned so that, receiving certain inputs about their memories, they all say the same word at the same time? Would the public interpret the same signal in one way, or would personal experiences have as many connotations as spectators? Can you influence an audience to the point that everyone makes the same decision, however risky it may seem?
Until the workshop begins, the professionals enter the reflection phase while making the corresponding preparations to ensure that their research is successful.
The initial days of the workshop are dedicated to group cohesion exercises: the participants develop team building activities to strengthen ties and ensure that all the people involved in the project become a team. Then, the first brainstormings take place: participants had been asked to bring ideas on the topic Information vs. Memory in order to work on established concepts and turn them into actions as soon as possible, so during the first week the proposals become clear. Once the participants have been divided into working groups, the scenes presented are:
-Privacy (or lack thereof) in social media. How our data, memories and private life are stored on mobile devices, and how we would react if they were stolen or destroyed.
-Neural connections. An exploration of cerebral tracts and their behavior: members of the audience become neurons and must react to certain stimuli (disgust, fear, excitement…).
-False information. All interpretations of the same story, often opposite or even unconnected, converge in the same scene to a point where the audience doesn’t know which version is the truth, if there is one.
-Collaboration. Solidarity as the basis of 21st century thinking: a part of the audience is trapped in the room and the rest, divided into groups and based on fragments of information, must work as a team to free them.
-Gender expression. On how preconceived ideas about binary genders (what it means to be a man or a woman, what falls within the “masculine” or “feminine” category) can lead a large part of society to have prejudices before individuals who do not belong to the gender binary, or even before their own gender.
The second week is spent consolidating the existing stage proposals in order to shape the final performance. Themes are outlined, actions are defined and sets are prepared. Thus, the scene about social media privacy becomes a walkway with pictures of the personal life of the attendees, both performers and guests, that were publicly available online. The space dedicated to exploring brain connections is framed by a tulle cube which audience members will enter to momentarily become neurons. The fake news scene is created in a space completely covered with newspapers, symbolizing both the multiplicity of news and infoxication. The scene about collaboration will be observed by a multitude of eyes, an Orwellian Big Brother that will give orders to the spectators. Finally, the room about gender expression will be marked by two spaces, representing femininity and masculinity, defined with attributes of both genders at the symbolic and costume level.
The final performance of Information vs Memory begins with a reflection on privacy in social media: while a series of performers cross a catwalk with their gaze fixed on their phones, asking the audience for selfies, members of the public will see their their own photos projected in the background, their intimate life shared publicly on facebook and instagram. Meanwhile, they will be asked for their own cell phones (“digital prosthetics”), which will be destroyed in a violent celebration.
It’s time to enter the space dedicated to the brain. Attendees will become a neural network that must work as a team to give birth to a brain and, once this is achieved, will learn some of its functions and reactions to love, violence, excitement and intoxication. Then they will be part of an experiment: they will be offered to taste some candy, first in a normal state, then covering their nose and finally having consumed a sweet inhibitor, thus verifying how the brain tries to process certain experiences when part of the senses are blocked.
Upon leaving the brain space, they will meet a group of senior citizens, the residents association of Manresà, who will relate in unison some experiences of their life as they are transported on a platform to a new space where the public will experience a shellfire of fake news. The same person will be accused of being an alien, admired as a celebrity, venerated as the most beautiful woman in the world, applauded as an Olympic medalist and feared as a terrorist while the assistants’ phones constantly show contradictory news. In the end, there’s a big explosion of newspaper papers that will fill the room and cover the protagonist.
Later the public is taken to the room of the Eye, an Orwellian Big Brother that will trap some of them and will give orders to the rest so that they can free their companions. They must be divided into teams and cooperate to find various objects that will allow them to decipher the puzzle posed by the Eye until all the members of the audience are reunited and able to move to the final scene.
The last space is dedicated to gender expression: several semi-nude performers will mix among the attendees, who will have to touch them and determine which space within the generic spectrum they fit in. Finally, they will witness a brief scene by each performer, carried out simultaneously in the same space: a man who asks science to increase the size of his penis, a woman stuck in the mirror who is constantly covered in makeup and typically feminine clothing… To finish, a corpse covered with stones as a form of funeral ritual with a sign that says “This body has been donated to science” is removed from the room before the eyes of all attendees.