It was a large room. Full of people. All kinds.
And they had all arrived at the same building
at more or less the same time.
And they were all free. And they were all
asking themselves the same question:
What is behind that curtain?
(Laurie Anderson, Born Never Asked )
What Is Behind That Curtain? Is a performance concerned with common scenarios of interactions in public spaces that involve watching and being watched, surrender of control and the blurring of boundaries between private and public, observer and observed. As the audience approaches the event space, curiosity is raised with large posters announcing a rare opportunity to view an important and mysterious object. Inside the performance space, a loudspeaker broadcasts a welcoming countdown to the next viewing. Audience members are informed that they must pass through a series of routine security checks before being allowed to view what is behind the curtain. Security checkpoints include predictable events such as metal detection, search or surrender of personal belongings, and a long wait. Participants anticipate the usual unpleasantness, but instead a search will result in encouragement and praise rather than fines or seizures. In another instance, when audience members surrender their shoes for inspection, they have their feet washed by a security agent while another agent shines their shoes. Caught in an unending but kind and gentle loop of bureaucratic red tape, audience members are never allowed access to the much-anticipated viewing of the object, which, in fact, does not exist.
This performance facilitates human interactions that communicate social concerns and suggest hypothetical, holistic, sometime absurd and positive resolutions. In these type of projects we create circumstances in which both actors and audience have the opportunity to revisit distressing events such as security checks or entering an unknown territory with the possibility of a different outcome. Audience expectations, which are set by social cues such as bureaucratic conventions and uniforms, are quickly dislodged by the unexpected introduction of humanistic, magical, ritualistic and nostalgic elements. My hope is that those moments of interaction provide a possible transcendent or transformative experience to all participants.
Collaborators: Signe Brewer, Paul Greyson, Yariv Keinan, Sebastian Hyde, Brad Sagara, Leif Granberg, Lee Whitefield.