Since it was named UK City of Culture 2017, Hull has played host to some spectacular sights. dreamthinkspeak director Tristan Sharps introduces us to the company’s latest production as it prepares to open for business.
Dreamthinkspeak is a site-specific theatre company formed in 1999 that has worked in buildings across the world, creating remarkable walk-through shows that incorporate installation, film and model landscapes into live performance. Every show is a little haunting, as if the ghostly journey through a building is not just a physical experience but a trip into the self.
“It’s the explosion of technology within South Korea and the wider world which underpins the production.” Tristan Sharps
Inspired by the May 1980 Democratic Uprising in Gwangju, South Korea where many demonstrators lost their lives during a military crackdown in the pursuit of democracy, One Day, Maybe draws parallels with the bloody aftermath of these events. Set in the present day it looks at the modern world we inhabit from the perspective of May 1980, imagining those who died as spirits returning to witness the results of their sacrifices. What if they could step into the shoes of the people alive today and see the same world that we see? Would they see an exciting world of global economic expansion, rapid technological development, and freedom of expression?
The production focuses on a global South Korean technology company that opens its doors to the public to witness and partake in the pioneering work of its development programme. However, as the performance progresses, the division between spectator and participant begins to dissolve and the past, present and future seem to merge as technology takes hold and reality becomes increasingly kaleidoscopic and unreliable.
It’s the explosion of technology within South Korea and the wider world which underpins the production, not simply as a tool for content, but a means of understanding the world in which we live.
In One Day, Maybe we focus on two main strands of technology, Virtual Reality and the Bluetooth i-Beacon. The former many are aware of but rarely access, the latter we know little about but is increasingly omnipresent.
Alongside Wi-Fi, Bluetooth i-Beacons are flooding commercial centres, transport hubs and shopping malls, locking onto our location, analysing our movements, and sharing our data. It’s legal if you’re part of a big anonymous chunk of data that’s used to generate aggregate stats, for example, about shopping patterns – but illegal if you are targeted individually.
It’s a fine line. I went into a coffee shop recently to use the toilet. I now get weekly texts telling me about the cafes’ inexhaustible special offers. The use and misuse of personal data is not just about illicit surveillance for “national security”, but also illicit targeting of individuals for consumer exploitation.
Should we be worried? It may not matter that my consumer habits are being logged and used to make me spend more money on things I don’t need, but I think it points to a more pernicious shift in how the globalised world views its inhabitants: as units of data defined by their financial function to be exploited for commercial gain.
That bothers me.
So what is the connection to One Day, Maybe? Since 1987, South Korea has become a thriving democracy. It is now at the forefront of modern technology and has embraced globalisation whole-heartedly.
May 1980 is not so long ago, yet the revolution that has been triggered by those events is more than just political. If the spirits who died in 1980 returned to witness the world that democracy created, what would they feel? I think they’d be very excited, but also concerned. The battle they fought for democracy was won, but perhaps the war is not over?
One Day, Maybe
1 Sep – 1 Oct 2017
Tickets on-sale now (£10 – £18.50)