the devil's abacus


The Devil's Abacus [ 8.26.2018 performance documentation ]

fixed media : sampled, generative audio techniques; captured footage; animation of still images.
live : saxophone and wind (sound effect) instruments, directed audience.

45 minute theatrical experience, Vogel Theater, Milwaukee's Fringe Festival.

In this work, I have abstracted the documented effects of solitary confinement.

Around 80,000 people in the American prison system are held in solitary confinement, a method of controlling the behavior of all imprisoned persons.

Milwaukee's Present Music commissioned this work to be staged August 26, 2018, in solidarity with the national prison strike.  It was performed at Vogel Hall as part of Milwaukee's Fringe Fest.

All audio samples and loops used to build this work are excerpted from publicly available documentaries about solitary confinement. I built the animated video loops from sequences of still photography shot through a variety of warping lenses.

As audience members, we want to think we have empathy, but we fight with the instinct to turn away when confronted with the image of a stranger poweless, crying out in pain. While working with ‘found media’, I omitted documentary footage of persons held in solitary confinement. Instead, the work presents secondary evidence of their dehumanization.  

Thus, we experience The Devil’s Abacus, a 45-minute multimedia performance work featuring generative, computer-based sound and video with live performance and directed audience.

The work contains evocative references to the traumatic self-harm that this system encourages among the imprisoned.

Directed audience : theatrical rules are broken as the audience is invited into the work, re-seating on the stage.