Mashing augmented reality, sculpture, cocktails and opera, The Alices (Walking) is an experimental fashion show about spectacle, looking and looking at others looking. It portrays a culture so addicted to the devices of high technology that it can only bear a world that is filtered through them.
Using the words of Lewis Carroll's 1865Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as a starting point, Hart expands the notion of madness to a live computational network. Steeped in the clichés of data-driven, punk and Romantic aesthetics, the live production is interactive and features five performers wearing "website dresses".
Crafted from patterned fabrics designed by Hart, the dresses are embedded with visual content that can be read with a networked camera. During the performance, select audience members are invited to launch an augmented-reality application on phones and tablets, which recognize the inscribed patterns. "While the performance investigates breakdowns between the natural and the technological, it is also conceived as a means to create new experiences of human-computer interaction," says Hart.
The Alices (Walking), crafts an Alice for our time with characters clothed in a cyborgian identity, one welded to the realm of smartphone devices. It is a system vulnerable to glitches and decay, as Carroll's original narrative is spun into text graphics that evoke pop-up banner ads and trashy web design. The novel's text evolves into animations of strobing concrete poetry. Phrases from the novel also form the basis for a libretto, sung and recorded by Claudia Hart with countertenor vocalist Mikey McParlane.
Edmund Campion's score for the performance treats and adapts this libretto electronically. As each Alice on the runway is plugged into the system, a new code tree is activated. Tags and patterns of animated signage change, signaling the spaces of cloning, duplication, mutation and transformation. Staging an irrational cycle of haptic communication between the human and the machine, Hart's production ultimately channels death, rebirth, and an ambivalent desire for eternal life.
Text by Laura Blereau, bitforms gallery