What escapes computation in interactive performance? Thinking it through, I’d have to say – almost everything.

Escapes: is not fully explained by computation, is ambiguous on some level, its origin is multivalent or unclear

Computation: calculation, usually to do with mathematics, often with use of computers, but not necessarily, as in colloquial phrase ‘that does not compute’

Interactive: interaction can happen on many levels – chemical, electronic, emotional, physical… implies communication of some kind, possibly following a set of rules, algorithms or expectations. Audience presence at a traditional performance is arguably already interactive, even if all audience does is watch / listen and applaud, human performers will feel different if audience is there compared to performing to no one.

Performance: implies audience, even audience of one, even if performer and audience are the same person. We can perform ourselves in every day life – according to J Butler we ‘perform’ our genders. There are also more formal performances where we buy tickets and watch / experience art involving live performers. Can a machine perform? Yes if there is an audience. Can the machine be its own audience? Yes. Is a machine always ‘performing’? Probably.

If I watch a machine performing, and I’m the only person in the audience, is that interactive, even if nothing I do alters the performance? Yes, the quality of my attention, and my projections of meanings on to the machine, makes it interactive.

What escapes computation in interactive performance? Human presence. Subjectivity of human presence. Emotional interaction / bonding between performers / performers & audience / audience members. The gaze escapes computation. Listening escapes computation. Moving in the fullness of the experience of moving, escapes computation, though elements of it can be broken down and understood in terms of math and physics.

What escapes computation in interactive performance? Thinking it through, I’d have to say – almost everything.

-Evelyn Ficarra, University of Sussex

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