Laika : Eulogies and Prophecies

Compiling an Encyclopedia of Contemporary Mythology

By Lior Lerman and Jonathan Shohet

At the C4CC (Centre for Creative collaboration) website

 

 

Laika – Eulogies and Prophecies is the second part in a series of performances about the way people have looked towards and away from the future during the past century. Its heroine is the famous canine cosmonaut Laika who in 1957 became the first to travel to outer space. Laika traces “the history of the future” through a technological lens. In the technology she finds the driving engine of history, propelling us from the stone age to the space age. Laika is an embodiment of humanity as it is being hurled into the future at an era of accelerated technological development. She is humanity’s ambassador and its avatar.

 

The performance is held around a table covered in white books. The audience is seated around the table and a member of the audience is invited to choose from a deck of cards. Each card chosen prompts Laika to open a different volume. Each volume in this vast encyclopedia contains a short poetic article, revealed to the audience through pop ups, video projections and live music.

 

This mechanical sculpture is made up of a hundred discarded volumes of the Hebrew Encyclopedia. It is an ongoing experimentation with the possibilities of creating a hyper-text bound by the restrictions of the printed page.  Retrieved at the point of obsolescence, these tomes were collected into an automaton which Laika calls her manual time machine, travelling to the heart of the present moment. This reconfiguration of the encyclopedia is an attempt to give form to the changing challenges we face in making meaning and making sense out of a world represented by an infinite and chaotic amount of information. Laika wanders through this encyclopedia without an index, searching through random articles for echoes of travellers and destinations who have drowned in the endless wave of the future. Her task is to take these mundane and disjointed articles and to turn them into stories, to read literal anecdotes as if it were meant to be read metaphorically and to transform information into knowledge.

 

Our goal for this meeting is to introduce Laika’s methodology in her task in creating a coherent encyclopedia of contemporary mythology. We want to base this methodology on Marshall Mcluhan’s tetrad of media effects introduced in ‘The Laws of Media’ published after his death in 1988 which was originally designed in order to explore the “grammar and syntax” of the “language” of media, and to evaluate the potential effects of different technologies on our society. This tool is comprised of four questions:

 

What does any artifact enlarge or enhance?

What does it erode or obsolesce?

What does it retrieve that had been earlier obsolesced?

What does it reverse or flip into when pushed to the limits of its potential?

We hope to reactivate these questions as narrative and dramatic tools and to see how they function when asked not of artefacts but of ideas and of people. We would like to invite the guests of the Thursday Club to refine this methodology by debating these four questions and their application to things beyond the realm of media.

 

ABOUT THE PRESENTERS

Jonathan Shohet and Lior Lerman have been working together since 2008 and living together since 2000. Lerman graduated from the School of Visual Theatre in Jerusalem and from Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Shohet graduated from the department of animation in the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem and is currently studying at Goldsmith’s college as part of the MA program in Computational Art.

 

Their work blends performance with interactive mechanical sculpture and video projections. It moves between dark theatre halls and bright gallery spaces. Their artistic practice examines questions of meaning and storytelling at the fulcrum between the mechanical and the digital age. Together they combine traditional animation techniques, puppetry and hand crafted models with photographic and digitally generated images, allowing each medium to be re-examined in light of the others. Their award winning live art installations and theatre productions are regularly performed in festivals in Israel and around the world.

 

When not focusing on their own projects they work as projection designers for live performance, collaborating with Israel’s leading theatre and opera directors, performance artists, choreographers and musicians.