The Illusion & The Aftermath is a performance of live music that unfolds slowly over the course of six-hours for a meditating audience.
Meditation cushions and headphones are provided for the audience, who may come and go as they wish, staying for only as long as they would like. For someone in the room without headphones, the performance is virtually silent.
The audience has complete freedom to move about the space, stretch their legs and change where they are seated to experience a different view. As a metaphor for spectatorship, meditation is meant to evoke an appreciation of conscious awareness while experiencing live art. We are calling this approach: contemplative performance.
The performance itself provides the audience with a much-needed break from the addictive patterns of how smartphones, social media, and corporations are changing contemporary consciousness by monetizing our attention. The performance asks that we seek cultural experiences that help us reconnect with our ability to look and listen deeply, before the social,cultural, and political consequences of not doing so become too great.
TEMPORARY DISTORTION’S APPROACH
As artists, we believe that a deep awareness of any experience holds within it the possibility of transformation; because, if we look closely, we discover the quality of all attention is a choice. The way we pay attention (and what we pay attention to) characterizes how we experience our life. In fact, what we pay attention to is our experience of life; therefore, if we can change the ways we perceive, we can actually change our lives. Realizing this potential involves cultivating opportunities for focusing and sustaining attention. We are calling this approach: contemplative performance.
The purpose of contemplative performance exists somewhere between meaning and being. The goal is to provide a potentially transformative moment for the audience by giving them the space, in their otherwise busy lives, to practice deep viewing and singular focus, in order to recognize the subtle ways we each engage with our perceptions that often go unnoticed. At the heart, is a belief in art’s ability to spark self-transformation through self-examination and understanding. The performance provides a break to see more deeply into our experiences than our workaday world often allows and the chance to bring that sensitivity of perception back into our lives with new ways of thinking.
Our work uses the performance event as an object of contemplation. The truth is: everything we experience, we experience through our minds, so contemplative performance involves working with the mind. On a day-to-day basis, most of us are working with our minds in a very different way. Those studying attention today are observing a new age of interruption and information overload. Along with multitasking, this has been shown to shift information processing from the memory center of the brain’s hippocampus to the rote task engine of the striatum, making it harder for us to remember or learn from the information we are processing. Multitasking, which we think of as doing two or more things at once, is really an act of the brain rapidly alternating between tasks, and has been linked to chronic stress, anxiety, depression, and an “artificial sense of constant crisis.” It has been associated with newly labeled states like “continuous partial attention.” Some have called this the meta-problem of our time, due to its capacity to ripple outward into industry, culture, politics, and our personal relationships.
Taking control of our minds opens up the possibility of choice. It trains us to see the power dynamics at play in how our experiences are labeled by others and reveals the true freedom we have over how we relate to ourselves and those around us. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we gain a better understanding of how our mind functions, for if we gain a greater awareness of how we perceive—how we assign meanings to things—we can leverage that awareness to change the way we deal with the world. This is a tool that can be used to recognize every situation in our lives is actually flexible, capable of being understood in a variety of ways, and holds within it the potential for change. Contemplative performance requires a different level of attention from us and can perhaps serve as (just a bit of) an antidote to these destructive cultural patterns.
TEMPORARY DISTORTION’S HISTORY
Temporary Distortion explores the potential tensions and overlaps found between practices in visual art, theater, cinema, and music. The group works across and between disciplines to create performances, installations, films, albums, and works for the stage that have been shown in over 20 cities in Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, and the United States.
Essays discussing Temporary Distortion’s work have been published in numerous international magazines and newspapers, including: The New York Times, Le Monde, Les Inrockuptibles, TimeOut, The Theatre Journal, The Drama Review, Contemporary Theatre Review, TheatreForum, Yale’s Theater Magazine, American Theater, and Chance Magazine; as well as in the books, Emergency Index, Performance and Media: Taxonomies for a Changing Field, Theatre Today, and Utopii performative: Artisti Radicali ai Scenei Americane in Secolul 21 (Performative Utopias: Radical Artists on the American 21st Century Stage).