CPR Practice Jan 27, 2017
by NKO Rey
CPR Practice could be reduced to commentary on the failure of eroticism, but I think it’s more than that. There is a sense of emergency - of trying to find a way out through a number of technological means, all of which fail the performer. The increasingly frenetic physical pace, contrasted by the essential inaction of the props, accurately reflects our individual and social values. If we continue down this path, there is no way out…
CPR Practice, by Geumhyung Jeong begins with an erotic dance between a human performer and a CPR dummy and ends in a crisis. Our eroticism of technology, the interplay between reality and (science) fiction, human fascination with life extension via medicine, and our inability to relate are questioned in the course of the hour solo performance.
On a literal level, CPR Practice is about how humans interact with machines - objects we have created to mirror ourselves. The staged relationship between human and puppet reflects mechanization of idealized human relationships.
As we move forward as a species, often interacting more as avatars than with organic beings, our relationships become abstract. We stare at screens, advertising, and programming - all representing idealized or reduced forms of human interaction. Increased mediation and its itinerant increase in representation cause a sense of alienation even when we are together.
Technologically facilitated narcissism leads to an essential failure of understanding the subtleties of natural, complex, organic interactions. From conversations consisting entirely of emojis, selfie culture, prosthetic sex devices and dolls, to the entirety of social media, human culture is now almost entirely self-referential; the ‘other’ that we seek is ourselves, and we are often alone.
Simple and elegantly executed, Jeong exhibits masterful control of the gaze. She looks at the puppet, and the audience looks at her. The show’s situation on the main stage allows the audience to feel small in the vastness of the space, and the nature of the seating and performative action shift theatrical conventions also allowing the audience to observe one another. I found my gaze often obscured, which lead me to look more at the other audience members and enjoy the anxiety-inducing soundscape created with an array of sophisticated medical devices.
What I saw was intense fascination as the relationship between performer and machine was erotic, with increased distress or discomfort as the relationship intensified, followed by disengagement as it ‘failed.’ Toward the end of the performance, there was a lot of shoegazing, which I read as discomfort rather than boredom. Even in a situation when we are permitted to observe one another, we feel discomfort doing so. Perhaps a mutual acknowledgment of the trauma of our shared experience - watching a simulated human death - would be comforting? Or make the action seem less strange and distressing? It’s impossible to know - as modern humans we are more comfortable looking in mirrors than at each other.