Reflecties Digital Silence

29th of May 2021, Digital Silence | Aneta

This interview conversation took place on the 29th of May 2021. We talked about Digital Silence, a performance in which all participants sit behind their laptop cameras, in silence, for one hour, leaving the camera and microphone on the Zoom call on.

Can you remember then a little bit what happened at this one hour, being in Zoom and not being in Zoom at the same time?

Yeah, what I did for example…I remember what I did…So, it was quite late in the evening, I think, and you know I was very tired, and I thought ok well now I supposed, yeah, I don’t know, do something…. but I was not feeling really comfortable just being on the camera and do my things…and all the time I was thinking I could have gone to bed, but I didn’t want to do that on the camera. So, I just sat next to my computer on the floor…I actually like sitting on the floor so that’s fine…I sat on the floor and I was just drawing the whole time. I was just like using the time to draw, but I remember I also had a lot of stuff to do for Uni that I had on my computer and do at the time…so, I was a bit like annoyed all the time because I could spend the time with doing that…and I knew after the performance finishes, I still have to do that before I go to sleep…uhm yeah…so, I was just drawing the entire time and I was not on the camera, because I didn’t want to be…

So, during that time you were more focused on yourself rather than hearing what was happening to the other people?

I mean, I heard others…like I heard noises and stuff, didn’t really focus that much. I was in my student’s dorm that time and I heard everything from any other room basically, so it was pretty much the same, as hearing my roommates from their rooms…so, it didn’t really make much difference because it was just everyday noises, noises that I heard everywhere…yeah so, I didn’t really pay much attention, because I couldn’t even know what was coming from the computer and what was my roommates….

So, the sounds were mixed?

Yeah.

What was the reason for attending the performance…what did you expect actually?

I was expecting a bit more…hm how to say it…a bit more involvement with the digital space and not just like what it was…I think I was expecting a bit more…yeah, I think that was the whole thing because I didn’t really researched it before, but it was given to us from the University or like recommended…and I wanted to go as many things as I could, to be involved you know…and I think I was expecting to be more involved…

But weren’t you involved by being all together in Zoom and create this space of sounds…?

I mean it was like supposed to be creating space you know, but I don’t feel like it was really creating space…it was just like we were in our spaces but we weren’t creating anything, or that’s what I felt…

So, if someone asked you what was your role during the performance or your engagement during the performance, what would you tell them?

Hmm…I would tell them that I just distanced myself from it, I guess…because I didn’t really see it as a performance, to be honest…because I think in order to be a performance, then it needs to have some performance involved…or like some art or something…and not just turning on your camera. I don’t want to sound rude but…(laughs) it was very expensive as well a performance where you just do nothing so…

But then, you obviously feel that you didn’t pay that much attention to the performance because you felt like it was not actually a performance…so, did anything stood out for you?

Uhm… (big pause) …I don’t think so…I just remember, it’s been a long time now, but I just remember I was very annoyed with it, because I felt like it wasn’t…you know like…well not let me rephrase that. I think basically you can do so much more, so much better with digital space, than just letting your camera and mics on with other people or whatever…yeah, it just seems to me like a bit unprepared. Because it’s like ok, this is what I do on an online class, you know I just sit there… (laughs) …you know… and I really didn’t want to be in online class again…and I understand it was supposed to be like meant for us like sharing space and there is something very interesting and intimate when you see people in their space behaving as they do, but I don’t think for that it needs to… I think for that, it could be like that, but not for such a long time or you know…it was a bit of waste of time to me. I don’t like wasting my time, so when I go see a performance or when I get involved in something like that, I just like to think of that as something that gave something to me…you know… I gained something from that…and I didn’t feel like I did…

So, what did you understand…I mean you said that you understand the performance so…?

Well, I think like for me…like [with] the [word] “understand” [I] meant [that the performance] was there for us to share , to be sharing space and also sharing silence…which alright that’s fine because silence can speak for itself. But I think it could be done differently, or it could just be better or I don’t know like…for me it was just ok…anyone can do this in my online class for free (laughs)…

So, because I get that you got disappointed, you have this feeling of the performance not being enough…did this experience change the way you are going to participate in the next online performative conversations or performative conversations in general?

So, I don’t think so. You know I don’t like…I don’t try to be affected by one thing I see. I always try to consider everything for what it is. So, when we got an email for Building Conversation to do another thing with them, it was the phone call, I signed up for that because it sounded very interesting. But unfortunately, the girls I was partnered with, like got ill at the last minute, so they didn’t have a partner for me, which was a shame but understandable.

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The above is an edited extract from the conversation. Curious about the entire interview? Read it here.

 


19th of May 2021, Digital Silence | Vicky

This interview conversation took place on the 19th of May 2021. We talked about Digital Silence, a performance in which all participants sit behind their laptop cameras, in silence, for one hour, leaving the camera and microphone on the Zoom call on.[1]

During the performance were you trying to listen to what was going on…. can you recall your role… did you tried to make any noise… can you recall then what were you were doing during that time?

Yes, I was trying to go away from the camera (laughs), so I cannot be visible. And then, because I was bored… yeah, the truth is that I got bored…I started painting…

Oh… that is nice…it is an artistic activity…

Hmm…yeah… I started doing something that I always do when I have time…that’s all… I brought my watercolours from the other room… so I was not just drawing in a notebook…

And what you were drawing was related to the performance or it was something totally irrelevant?

No, it didn’t relate to the performance at all…. I don’t know…maybe because I was drawing an outside space… I don’t know maybe…you know that was representing my need to go outside…and not being in front of the laptop screen once again… this performance happened for me and for the other people that were taking part in this, in a period where we were locked in and we were spending a lot of time in front of a computer working or doing online classes, so to do an experiment like this, which you are basically experiencing it every day…. I did not feel this experiment brings something new… I felt it like a continuous situation following what was happening from noon because we had lessons before online. It was double frustrating for me….

You said that you found an extra hard this event, because you had online lessons before, right?

Yes, not only that day, I had online classes all that period of time, I experienced a new experience, because I didn’t had online lessons before in my life…uhm… and this performance was something…how to phrase it… not an escape of my reality, it was a continuation of a dull routine for me… so, if I had seen this performance two years ago for example where I still had in person classes and all of a sudden they were putting me in front of this online process, in front of a computer, then maybe would have made me a different impression to me…maybe it would stunned me, because it would made me realize that this double-parallel world exists, this digital world that we are in…but again I believe that this [performance] for our generation wouldn’t work, because we are a generation that is grow up in social media, with cameras…with this communication to the digital world…so for me this experimenting performance, and I am being totally honest now, failed…exactly because for our generation it doesn’t make any impression… to our parents it would make an impression… for us that we have been raised in a social media culture… I don’t know…did it make any impression on anyone?

What were your expectations when you decided to join the performance?

To be honest, I did not know what were my expectations…maybe it was my need to finally attend any performance because we attended this performance during the lockdown…They were only a few performances back then, so everything that related with to term of performance we were open to joining…for example me pre-lockdown era if I had to attend a performance, I would always read the brochure of the play before. During the lockdown and by being in The Netherlands I literally attending every available performance and I spend a lot of money on performances that were mediocre. I had the need to watch theatre, to attend performances…so, I would “swallow “any performance at that time (laughs)… so, that is the reason for attending…when I heard about Digital Silence, I thought that it would be something like John’s Cage 4’33, or something similar to that for theatre… so, my mind went immediately there when I heard about the performance…when he [Cage] done something like this was very original and of course, it shocked the audience and provoked reactions, and people wondered why they paid to watch something like this…I also wondered why I paid to attend a performance like Digital Silence (laughs)…. I want to be honest with you…so I did this association…. I can acknowledge Cage’s originality back then and I respect that…but when experience something like this now in the social media age it was disappointed for me…it didn’t make any impact on me at all….

[…]

Well, for example, you could make noise on purpose so you can spark the conversation between the sounds… or during that time something like this did not occur to you, because you were already bored, or you didn’t pay that much attention, drawing… like you were kind of in space out mode…

I think that the digitals sounds were so frustrating from me that day, that I was looking forward for the performance to end…Although, I was the last leaving the meeting or second to last leaving the performance… and this was a clearly an argumentative act…as you see for example in theatres people leaving the performance if they don’t like it…I stayed until the end, now that I am thinking it, I was just reacting to what I saw, and I wanted to protest and stay until the end to state with my presence that what I experienced was not enough for me…that I am waiting for you to give me something, because what I saw was not enough for me…that is the reason for staying until the end…there were people that left the meeting immediately and they did not comment anything…to be honest I paid attention more to people’s reactions after returning back in front of our cameras, because there were two parts in the performance, than when we were away from our cameras…I was so curious to observe…because there were people that I started to appreciate in the audience… I was very curious to see if these people that I share some common interests, how they will react…yes…I was more interested into that…and I wanted to know if I was the only one that fed up during the performance…was I the only want that wanted to leave the meeting…if the aim of the performance was the concept of frustration…so, if they placed us in this situation in order for us to act and get out from the virtual reality, then I believe that this performance has potential….it can work as an anti-performance for the people that are obsessed with being on the internet, which this obsession because of the pandemic became a need since we couldn’t prevent it…If the [this performance] acts as a discourage for being in these platforms, then I believe that [the piece] worked excellently.

So, if I asked you what moment stood out for you, then you would say your curiosity to see people’s reactions?

Yes, because I was so fed up at the time that we were heading back in front of our cameras, that I wanted to figure out if I was the problem.

 

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The above is an edited extract from the conversation. Curious about the entire interview? Read it here

[1] The interview was taken in Greek and this is a translated version in English.

 


5th of May 2021, Digital Silence | Anastasia

This interview conversation took place on the 5th of May 2021. We talked about Digital Silence, a performance in which all participants sit behind their laptop cameras, in silence, for one hour, leaving the camera and microphone on the Zoom call on.

What happened in that hour?

Noises coming from my laptop, noises coming from my home and it was blending with each other. Noises coming from my head, because I was also thinking about stuff. I was in so many different dimensions during that time that exactly these kinds of things made the hour pass very quickly.

And what were the things you were thinking about?

I was just thinking that – I was checking my clock and I was thinking ‘Oh, 10 minutes passed, that was quick’. I was thinking about: What are we doing? Am I alone? I am also in this Zoom meeting. I don’t want to make too much noise so that they can hear me. Because, you know, Zoom generates the loudest noise to the rest. And I was trying to be as quiet as I can but at the same time, there were noises coming from other people in my house because they were talking. And I was also observing my room. I was trying to hear the noises that were coming from the laptop. It was the unknown – where does it come from, from which room? And, yes, you know, it was an experience that doesn’t happen regularly.

I was also thinking that there is no such thing as absolute silence because you are always going to hear something. Even the beat of your heart or a noise coming from outside your window – or the computer is making sound. But yes, silence is also something relative. I think. We tend to see silence more from an egocentric approach, because they say when I am not talking, and you’re not talking, there is silence.

But if you would have made a sound, no one would have known it was you, right?

No, but I still wouldn’t feel comfortable. I was also afraid that the sounds from my house would somehow be broadcasted into the Zoom call, and I was also feeling very uncomfortable about that. But I don’t think they actually heard something.

And why do you think that that made you uncomfortable?

Because I would feel exposed. And I know that they wouldn’t know that it’s coming from me, because we don’t see from which room it is coming, but I didn’t want to share my sounds.

And is this something that you experienced as unpleasant? That feeling of trying to be quiet?

No, I think it was playful.

A playful uncomfortableness.

Yes yes. It was like hide and seek.

I can imagine that you can also feel like you needed to make sounds in order to have a conversation, that the sounds that are already there were not enough, or that you should add on to that.

I wasn’t making sounds, but all the other things in my room and people outside my room were making sounds.

So, they all became part of that conversation, everything.

Yes, everything becomes a part of the conversation, not only me as a person, but my laptop, the trees outside of my window, for example, everything is taking part in the performance, in the actual conversation. So, my role was also trying to hear those sounds.

So, you were actually trying to listen more than to partake?

Yes, for me, yes, it was more about listening.

And maybe that is also of course being part of the conversation. The listener. Because as you said you are never completely silent. Because you still hear your heartbeat and other things.

Yes exactly.

And what did this performance provoke for you? Your participation in this?

Since it was at the beginning of my Master’s Program and we were doing the program online, due to Covid-19, it really made me think that we can actually explore the social media video-sharing performance a little bit more, and try to make it a little more bearable. And that it can be another genre. And it’s actually – it is not about what is better, theatre in person or online theatre. It is about what other things this experience creates, different from the theatre in person. So, the whole time, I was thinking that I felt the connection as I would have felt in an actual performance, but different.

And I was thinking also that I was participating in a performance in The Netherlands, but I am here in Greece, in my house, and I really felt like I was part of a performance, even though I was away. And I was really glad we were creating something with people, even online, and also – especially because a lot of my classmates were also attending the performance – I felt more intimacy. And I actually did something with my classmates even though I have never seen them. I felt like I was part of a group.

Yes, maybe even because it is online and it is in this digital environment, that you feel even more – a stronger connection, because it is so amplified that you are there and not there at the same time. That it is actually making the connection and the being together stronger. Because there is such an emphasis on being together and not.

Yes. And you are making a specific choice to log in to the Zoom call and participate in the performance. You are willing to give back, you are willing to be part of a team during these performances and online in general. And you can see everyone, rather than being in a big classroom where you don’t really observe all the people.

No, when I go to a performance in a theatre, I am not thinking about “what a special occasion, me and all these people are here together, sharing this experience”, that is not something that’s on your mind there, and that is an amplified connection in that Zoom space. And so, because Digital Silence was at the beginning of our studies, did you approach the online lectures differently after the performance?

Yes, I was a little bit influenced the next weeks, trying to hear the ambient noises coming from everyone’s screens. And I also kept thinking that we’re creating a – we are doing a course in a digital environment and it doesn’t really have to have this negative – you know, because people think that this digital environment is just a solution for Covid-19, which it is, but they see it as a negative thing. I was trying to see it as – and generally in my life I am always trying to see the positive things. And it might be a little bit new, I understand that, but it doesn’t need to have this negative essence and to hate it. We just have to try to make it more bearable and see what it can create and what new things it can provoke. And Digital Silence made me see that. Even though one of the main features of Zoom is to see each other – how we can use that to not see each other and use it in a different way, how can we make a connection through this by not seeing each other. Because sometimes by not seeing each other, you create more intimacy. So, what if we don’t see each other and can still make a connection and a nice intimate relationship between us. And it also made me think of, being part of a clique during the performance – because we were separated in different breakout rooms and I had my group and the other breakout room was the other team, and this experience only became hearable or visible to these people only. It cannot be repeated. Because something will always – something new will always come up. Even if you record something, it still can’t be repeated because something different will be in the setting where you watch that recording, so again, you can never repeat a performance or a situation.

So, it is also that unique experience that you now share with this group of people. That will never come back in that same form, but that is something that you share with these people forever.

Yes.

And what do you feel was your portion in that? Because you said that you were mostly concerned with listening, so was it – it’s making me think of if you felt more of an audience member and the other people in the room, or the other things in the room, were performing for you. Or if you were’re part of – do you understand what I mean?

I think the roles kept switching during the whole performative conversation. There was – I cannot say that I was completely only an audience member, even though maybe I wasn’t making so much noise. I was also the audience, I was also the performer, I was also the third person watching something. There was a fluidity. Also, my laptop was performing, so to say. Everything was performing, my laptop was also performing. I think it had the most crucial role during the performance.

Your laptop?

Yes, my laptop, because it was the medium to actually broadcast the performance. Also, the Zoom was performing. Yes, everything. Even the items in my room were performing.

And then the actual conversation would be different for every participant because they would have –

A different setting.

Yes, their own objects in their room that would also be a part of it for them.

But isn’t it also in actual – in every performance? That everyone has their own subjective experience.

Yes, of course. Maybe that is also something that is amplified by this piece.

Yes, because we are definitely in different rooms, so we are definitely having different experiences. And it is also, what you said, more visible in an online performance than in a theatre venue when everyone is sitting in the same auditorium and watching a performance. But again, everyone, based on their background, on the thoughts they are thinking during the performance, has a different experience.

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The above is an edited extract from the conversation. Curious about the entire interview? Read it here

“Everything becomes a part of the conversation, not only me as a person, but my laptop, the trees outside of my window for example, everything is taking part in the performance, in the actual conversation.”
Anastasia

“I was so curious to observe…because there were people that I started to appreciate in the audience…”
Vicky

“I didn’t try to make any noise…well I don’t really make a lot of noise on my own (laughs)…in general so I was just like acting as I would, like even if the camera wasn’t on.”
Aneta