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<nettime> Review: Edit Kaldor's "Or Press Escape"
Jill Walker on Wed, 5 Feb 2003 18:54:33 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> Review: Edit Kaldor's "Or Press Escape"


It's so safe to demonize the Internet, to be afraid of anything new. The
media do it regularly, and it's so reassuring: anything bad can be assigned
to the internet, and so is avoidable so long as we don't let our sons spend
too much time online (http://www.bt.no/forbruker/helse/article132260).
Internet addiction, porn, pedophilia, loneliness: it's all the fault of
technology. (Torill Mortensen's comment on this more than a year ago
(http://torillsin.blogspot.com/archives/2001_12_01_torillsin_archive.html#80
13824) was a rare breath of sanity.)

Strangely enough, the demonization of the net also seemed to be the
conclusion of Edit Kaldor's performance "Or press escape", which I saw at
Teatergarasjen (http://www.bit-teatergarasjen.no/) in Bergen, Norway last
Friday. I really liked the way she wove her story as we watched and read.
(Beware, there are spoilers in the following! If you're likely to see the
performance and don't want to know what happens, don't read this!) When the
audience were let in Kaldor was already seated at her computer, her back to
the onlookers, a lone spotlight illuminating her computer rather than her
face. The contenst of her screen were projected on a large screen which
became the main scene of action. As we were walking in she was typing a
surreal first person narrative of spaceships and synchronous swimming. When
she saved the text file in a folder labelled "Dreams" we could start fitting
it into a system of meaning. This became the dominant strategy of the
performance: fragments that didn't make sense on their own were woven into a
whole by being given meaningful file names or being sorted into folders or
repeated and referred to in other fragments.

After the dream description, Kaldor added items to a to do list, then
continued with drafts of emails or notes to neighbours. Uncertain Norwegian
grammar and an online English-Norwegian dictionary to position herself as an
immigrant (I wonder whether she learns enough of the language in every
country she performs in to do this in the native tongue? If she was simply
working from a script specially translated for her then she did an
impressive job with the deletions, rewritings, and constructions.) She
appears to be upset about a man who's staying illegally in her attic, and
has a security camera pointing out through the peephole of the front door to
her flat. Every five minutes her writing is interrupted by a live feed from
this camera - though it takes a while before we realise that that is what
the image signifies.

In an elegant twist towards the end we realise that if the man exists, it is
mostly as an image of the protagonist and her own isolation and semi-illegal
status. An email reminds her that she must apply for a work permit within
two days or leave the country. Her attempts to write a business plan for
this application are painful to watch, and though she finds sample business
plans online, she gives up, abandons her to-do list and just writes to the
man in the attic - or to herself. "Wash your clothes. Wash yourself. Make
yourself presentable."

But while she is writing this advice to herself, she gets an invitation to
"The Lounge", an iVisit webcam chatsite. The first time she refuses the
invitation, but the second time she accepts and joins the chat. It's just a
chat. A real, regular, inane, boring chat; the kind you find if you walk
into any chatroom - or pub, for that matter - where there's no topic and
noone you know. "Hi Ede!" someone says. "How are you today?" We see her
face, finally, through the same webcam image that the others in the chatroom
see her: it's half in shadow and half too brightly lit by the shadow. The
lights on the audience slowly become brighter, the music starts playing
outside in the bar, and though there's no clapping it's clear that the
performance is over. Or rather, it's never-ending. The woman Kaldor is
portraying is trapped. She'll never leave her flat, she'll never take her
own advice, she'll never get a job. She'll stay in the boring safety of her
own words and webcam chats.

After my initial disappointment with the obviousness of Kaldor's chosen
ending I started to wonder whether it was a tactical choice. Kaldor has used
her chosen technology cleverly, and clearly appreciates the aesthetic
possibilities in it, but she must also be aware that this is still strange
and frightening technology to many. By pandering to mainstream media's fear
of the technology, her performance is totally unthreatening. That might be
what allows the mainstream to embrace it, as did the reporter from the local
paper, Bergens Tidende
(http://bergenpuls.no/cityguides/nav/review.jhtml?id=7855&context=scene).

Jill Walker

Also posted on jill/txt, 2 Feb, 2003.
http://huminf.uib.no/~jill/

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