‘Perils of Obedience’ Performance in two acts

Obedience to authority: human capacity for cruelty. If an authority allows us to break the law and even across the boundary of our morality, we feel a propensity to do so, as attempted to shown by the psychologist Stanley Milgram in 1963.

Perils of Obedience was an interactive dance piece that first took place at the “Fête de la musique 2009” in Paris, France. It is a generative audio and dance re-enactment of the Milgram Experiment.

Basically, the show is a dance exploration of institutional and cultural power systems, where an audience member gets to have direct influence on a performers actions. It asks the questions, how far would an audience member go, given the power?

Wherein the Authority of the Spectacle Justifies complicity betweenControlling Viewer & Puppet Actor ∼or∼ Embedded Technologies dis-splay for your Education & Amusement Hidden Systems of Social Control.

A person dressed with the accouterments, and speaking in the languages of both experimenter and ringleader stands on the street with a mike in her hand. She entreats passers-by and on-lookers to become participants in the performance.

The willing participant is given a control interface made from 1950’s British military surplus. Note: that the salvaged components were originally made and used for export to Austria post-WW II, the materials used for the apparatus are a material aspect of re-appropriationof various modes of authority. It has the smack of bricolage in the way that it looks. The apparatus itself has been neutralized, almost rendered nostalgic by the passage of time.

In the control interface we see what was once secret and powerful, andused as part of the war machine, now cast aside, and made available as scrap to the general public. Though the technology used to re-appropriate the piece is not available without some dedication to learning how to use it.

With this appropriated interface the Participant/Viewer now generates the audio, and the movements of the dancer. The intensity of the music, and the intensity and directions of the dancer’s movements are directly guided by the Participant/ Viewer’s turns of the knobs on the control interface.

The re-enactment transposes the roles in the original Milgram experiment, from Experimenter, Actor and Subject to Author, Dancer, and Viewer/Participant respectively. The goal of the performance being to push the limits of the authority of the spectacle.

The impetus for making this project came from a desire for making jest towards scientific as well as artistic authority. Stanley Milgram used actors in his original experiment, he himself acted out the role of authority figure to coerce a body of data.

The Milgram Experiment is beautiful to us because it uses acting, consensus, apparatus to create scientific fact, and uses the scientific apparatus to inspire fear and belief.

Llikewise we are using acting, consensus and apparatus to create music, dance, performance, dialogue, and even the very space for presenting it.

Another theme of the project comes from the question “At what point does the pantomime of danger become danger itself?” In art, and theater, we are given the option of trying on different social hats without too much risk.

 

‘…..In Perils Of Obedience, we have collapsed all the actions involved in the fragmentation of building up a power structure into four essential roles, all occupied by human beings. We’ve slightly transposed our humanity through the performance. Abstracting our bodies from their actions. Playing out the age old tale of authority while leaving our bodies exposed to the street and each other. It requires the cooperation of everyone, the Author, the Dancer, the Audience and the Participant/Viewer, and the Apparatus/Prop, for the story to play out, and have a picture perfect ending.



We used an arduino micro-controller (see arduino.cc) to push the dancer in 6 directions in space. This would cause vibration motors to actuate when the knobs on the control board were turned. This would also send signals to our Pure Data (see puredata.info) patch, written and composed by Damien Frey to affect the audio of the piece.

By: Sofy Yudiska, Val Marraco, Kim Llums

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