QUEER VOICES
05/03/2016 02:51 pm ET

This Immersive Dance Performance Explores Surveillance, Policing And Authority

"No person will leave this show having experienced the same thing."

A massive, immersive, choreography-based performance is currently in the works in Brooklyn, New York that will challenge audiences to consider their relationship with technology, policing, big data and surveillance.

"Authority Figure," slated to run May 20-22 at The Knockdown Center, is the brainchild of artists Sarah Kinlaw and Monica Mirabile. It involves the work and contributions of over 150 creatives, including the likes of Colin Self, Signe Pierce, Richard Kennedy, Sigrid Lauren and SOPHIE -- just to name a few.

The collaborative effort involved in "Authority Figure" is impressive, including the development of an original score, seven installation artists and the cast of over 150 performers. The series of performances encapsulated within "Authority Figure" will involve smaller groups of 20 people entering the space every 20 minutes.

The project as a whole is currently engaged in a Kickstarter campaign in order to fund production.

"We are all being watched and being listened to, by corporations that social profile in order to use our demographic so that we will buy those products that are ultimately against us," Mirabile told The Huffington Post. "Homogeny is war and agency is armor. We often don't know that it is happening and don't know what it is doing to our bodies. This is of the body -- it is a performance, which is why 'Authority Figure' is a choreography. Once you take responsibility for the performance of yourself, you are capable of changing things for the well-being of the group and this spirals out."

Check out the video above to learn more about "Authority Figure," or read the interview with Kinlaw and Mirabile below.

Lanee Bird

The Huffington Post: What is your overarching concept and vision for this production?
Sarah Kinlaw: "Authority Figure" is a research on relationships formed around obedience, as well as the psychological and emotional power-play surrounding authority. It is an immersive display of the physical; showing how these relationships are reflected on our bodies, voices and basic every-day structures.

Monica Mirabile: Deep seated in identity lies everything you have absorbed throughout life. We absorb it through the relationships we have been in and the codes we were subjected to but couldn't see. Sometimes we have no control over the information we take in, so how we interpret obedience and authority will dictate our actions. There are overarching systems that oppress and the perpetuation of these systems is a performance we can take control of. 

"Authority Figure" is the massive choreography of 150 people inviting you into a series of abstract stories we have moved through. It is something we are doing all the time -- it is the choreo-politics of existing. Small groups of 20 people enter every 20 minutes to embark on an intimate journey that asks you to fluctuate between observing and participating. Here, we are dancing with the reality and considering its identity.

Lanee Bird

This project is a massive undertaking — how did it come to fruition?
Kinlaw: Somewhat naturally. "Authority Figure" started as a collaborative conversation and an interest in working together. The concept developed and grew quickly once we started circling back on themes like compliance, obedience, authority, etc.  

It was clear early-on that these themes are so deep, so expansive and often specifically engrained in the individual, so we started working in a broader and bigger way in terms of production.  

Mirabile: Authority and obedience create the social codes that dictate society -- this is a heavy truth in our current political climate. So, yes, it was very natural. When I'm listening, I see how the dichotomy of obedience and authority ring throughout culture. As a choreographer and a director, I seamlessly relate this to the way we compose and move together. This often shows up in my work. I am very inclined to make large scale collaborative formats that can prove that people are capable of working together while still self-actualizing. A lot of communication, hard work and many meetings later, it is still a game of listening.

Walter Wlodarczyk

How do you want this project to encourage people to consider their relationship with policing, surveillance and big data? Why is this important?
Mirabile: One of the questions in the "personality of endurance quiz" asks people what they would do if they were to see someone being violently arrested. There are several answers, one being, "I would take out my ACLU app (Stop and Frisk Watch) and record it." The performance has already started at this point. This is an example of someone taking responsibility for their body in a social space. There are many situations where we lose our sense of agency in private spaces too. We are all being watched and being listened to, by corporations that social profile in order to use our demographic so that we will buy those products that are ultimately against us, etc. Homogeny is war and agency is armor. We often don't know that it is happening and don't know what it is doing to our bodies. This is of the body -- it is a performance, which is why "Authority Figure" is a choreography. Once you take responsibility for the performance of yourself, you are capable of changing things for the well-being of the group and this spirals out. As culture develops, a reflection of culture does too. There are many resources out there that can provoke freedom -- you being the most important one. To be clear, "Authority Figure" is dance, but everything begins with psychology. 

Kinlaw: Even as a director, the way I view and intellectualize these themes of control and power has become more elaborate since working the piece and working with our performers. It's a very emotional and human piece built from real stories, observations and structures. 

That being said, the way we consider our involvement and reaction to these relationships and structures is important. We aren't aiming to force a feeling or a mindset with a concept so sensitive and complex, but we are encouraging people to become more aware. 

The line between compliance and cooperation can be very tricky; I deal with this all the time. We all do. However, the outcome of a mass that obeys without question can end up downright scary and irreversible in consequence. We want to bring feeling and emotional consideration back to decision. 

Walter Wlodarczyk

How can art and dance help us better understand these massive systems of power and control?

Kinlaw: The response to this project, overall, has been very supportive and enthusiastic. People want to feel and want to consider. Thematically, we've found that this project is something that people wanted to be part of not only because of the more performative/collaborative aspects but because the theme is something that resonates in a very unscripted and real way. This process feels like a therapy. 

These concepts as pertaining to "Authority Figure" are through performance by way of over 150+ committed and diverse artists. However, the overarching fact is that these issues and questions are a part of your life whether you like it or not. I think the deviation of direct language and the introduction of exaggerated and honest symbolism (and re-enactment) via performance can reach audiences individually and specifically. 

No person will leave this show having experienced the same thing. 

Mirabile: I've been thinking about this since I started making art as a teenager and, honestly, I fluctuate from knowing and questioning, which I know is a part of the process. Artists have maintained the ability to exist in the margins for some time. They are the largest culturally identified group of people to exist in the lowest economic tier while also swiftly dancing with the most luxurious and gluttonous. This is a powerful position to be in. The best art reflects the current culture. Art is an abstract language; it is informed by what we have absorbed and that by which we need to process. When you have someone analyzing and communicating on this level you effect the way we receive information. Full circle.

"Authority Figure" is currently engaged in a Kickstarter campaign in order to fund production. The program is slated for a May 20-22, 2016 run.

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