A performance work for bodies and electronics
Whether biological or technological, no system is immune to failure. SYSTEM_ERROR contemplates the shared disquiet we feel towards the frailties and imperfections that make us human, while questioning the increasingly dependent and integrated relationship between human bodies, brains and technology.
At the work’s core is a vast, bespoke instrument designed by Alisdair Macindoe that sees electrically conductive tape function as a live circuit activated through touch. Part installation, part musical device, part kinetic art, this intricate creation allows for a performance in which machine and living body form a symbiotic relationship.
Animated by anxieties over ageing and death, and the ambivalent promise of artificially extending lives, this is a rich audio-visual-sensory experience about both the capacity and limits of the imagination to speculate about our own future. Ultimately SYSTEM_ERROR is a meditation on connection: sounds are generated by the closing of circuits composed of human bodies, making manifest the ways in which touch can carry meaning.
Chamber Made Artistic Director and performance-maker Tamara Saulwick comes together with contemporary dance-maker, composer and instrument designer Alisdair Macindoe to create and perform this new hybrid performance work, exploring the frisson generated when experimental sound art meets physical expression. Contemplative, thought-provoking and possessed of an unexpected mechanical lyricism, SYSTEM_ERROR creates a small world that contains universes.
‘This work is partly about memory and how central it is to our understanding of who we are, how it connects us to others, situates us, and helps us navigate the world around us. As I’ve watched people I Iove grow old, I’ve witnessed the ways that the mind and body begin to fail. Watching that kind of decline makes you think about what you would change if you had a choice, if technological advances were to offer an alternative.’
– Tamara Saulwick
‘For a long time I have had this wonderment at the space and time that computers and electronics present. As a child I used to create objects with expressive use, like musical instruments and electronic devices. I like being able to use objects and things outside my body to communicate with the outside world. The sound design for this project is a continuation of that compulsion.’
– Alisdair Macindoe
‘As SYSTEM_ERROR creates a nexus between sound and performance, so too it asks where we are in the nexus between ‘human’ and technology.’
‘ … a mesmerising, futuristic masterpiece that ponders humanity and the magic of connection.’
- Nominated for Sound Sculpture (Contemporary & Experimental Performance), Green Room Awards
John Bailey on SYSTEM_ERROR, ADSR Zine
Huge thanks to John Bailey for writing a beautiful essay about SYSTEM_ERROR. We are thrilled that ADSR Zine published the essay as part of their first issue for 2022: ADSR Zine 015.
ADSR plays an invaluable role in creating a much needed context for long-form writing around Australian contemporary arts practice.
‘SYSTEM_ERROR is a collision of interests, and one of the great rewards of the work is that its makers don’t speak past one another the way our devices sometimes do. Macindoe’s fascination with technology and the body and Saulwick’s interests in mortality and connection create fascinating nodes of meaning that eschew the usual things we expect of digital/dance art.’
Supported by Arts House Listening Room residency and CultureLAB. The project has also been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, the Besen Family Foundation and Chamber Made donors.
Chamber Made would like to acknowledge and thank the following people for permission to use textual snippets of their works in SYSTEM_ERROR: Dr Natasha Vita-More Transhumanism and Designer Experience, Titus Nachbauer & Dr Anders Sandberg TRANSHUMAN – Do You Want To Live Forever?, Dr Frank J Vattano, Dr Thomas L Bennett, Dr Michele Butler Life Without Memory: The Case of Clive Wearing, Frank Theys TechnoCalyps.
Co-creator and performerTamara Saulwick
Co-creator, performer, sound & instrument designerAlisdair Macindoe
Data visualisation artistMelanie Huang
Text consultantEmilie Collyer
Lighting designerAmelia Lever-Davidson
Audio engineerNick Roux
Production ManagerRebecca Etchell