We were all stood around, watching Chris's laptop background of a mountain. It was an image we'd become very familiar with over the course of our process, often referred to by what it was not: ‘The Yucca Mountain, not that mountain’. The image becomes disrupted. Squares of glitches, appear and disappear, covering portions of the screen. The following words appear, imposed on the image of the mountain.
Watching every motion in my foolish lover's game
On this endless ocean, finally lovers know no shame
They’re erased backwards as the instrumental to Take My Breath away plays.
Images of miners and visual static interfere with the signal, obscuring the message.
The written word accompanied by instrumental music - the combination of both mediums in this way - was undeniably karaoke. There was something eerie about the video, an emptiness that we wanted to explore further, and maybe even attempt to fill.
Karaoke (/ˌkærəˈoʊki/; Japanese: [kaɾaoke] (listen); カラオケ, clipped compound of Japanese kara 空 "empty" and ōkesutora オーケストラ "orchestra") is a type of interactive entertainment usually offered in clubs and bars, where people sing along to recorded music using a microphone.
Karaoke as a medium lends itself as a form devoid of content. On a fundamental level it is the combination of visual text and music. It is also a space, with its own set of social codes. A cultural phenomenon enjoyed world-wide. It’s a sonic and visual aesthetic. It’s a way of performing. It’s glorious and tragic and everything in between.
We began looking at karaoke as a channel for receiving and transmitting information, as a form of communication.
Inspired by the channel as a conduit or transmitter that can be either visible (as in a cable) or non-physical (as in a broadcast), I turn to the form of karaoke for its spirit of transmission, here transmitting ideas about the contemporary moment through a performer’s body.
- Parker-Starbuck, 2017
It became a portal of sorts, allowing us to occupy a specific, familiar space governed by the authentic voice, personal experience, self-expression and unapologetic trashiness. It provided a tonic to the intensity of the danger and the melancholy of our personal stories. It allowed us to oscillate between it and the ethereal mountain top we’d created. Between the personal and political, the conceptual and the commonplace.
We experimented with how we might occupy that space, and who we became once we did. We turned our rehearsal space into a karaoke bar, requesting songs, singing together, shouting over each other, listening, not listening. We booked a private karaoke booth, made a playlist of songs relevant to our themes and sang our hearts out. We played with songs that correlated to themes of the show, exploring the possible connections that could be made by performing the song in this context.
Rather, it somehow allows us to re-produce the thing reproduced for ourselves, to bring it to life, to re-activate it, so as to be able to experience it in our present moment.
- Philip Auslander
We looked at how we might transition between these spaces, and what traces of each would bleed into the other. The colourful LED lights provided sense of place which could be layered easily on top of the clinical blankness of our plastic sheets. This produced a palimpsestic effect, where the connotations of the space before, the scientific clean box aesthetic, remained as a visible reminder of the message, the danger.