Documenting a live event is never easy, especially one that takes place in multiple locations simultaneously with lots of one-to-one connections on the phone. Although the calls were recorded and those interactions are an amazing document, they are not the event.
Three writers took on the challenge of writing about their experiences and reflections on THIS EVENING’S PERFORMANCE HAS NOT BEEN CANCELLED.
“Hello” Already I have noticed the woman speaking has an unselfconscious warmth to her voice. “Nice to meet you, you’re my first call,” she says. “I think it’s a technical thing maybe. Are you interested in Opera?” I answer “Yes.” Making sure my internal reservations are well camouflaged I follow up with: “it’s unusual to speak direct to the people involved in production.” She answers: “It’s the same for us. We do prepare the whole show two years in advance and work quite a lot to bring this on stage, and then we don’t really have contact with the public. Have you chosen especially our production?”
“I did choose you especially.” I answer.
“That dialogue is ameliorative in a time of social distancing and isolation, offering up a shelter in which we might briefly press us up against each other. The implicit awkwardness in these initial, shy encounters is tentatively stage-managed in conversation: often, giving way to laughter.
The telephone renders our breath, our exclamations, our pauses tangible. Like warm breath rushing against cold air, telephony renders us vulnerable to “the very being of our sentences, and the climate that fostered them.”
“After we hang up I feel a rush of excitement, I can do this all over again. For my part, I have received a partial slither of a stranger’s life, to which I have attempted to listen, bear witness, affective labour in both directions. This is the welcome re-dress for all the recent Zoom times where we have suddenly become almost always passive consumers in an array of not-before-possible contexts, an artist’s talk in ‘New York’, a weekend-long opening at ZKM, ‘Karlsruhe’, a discussion between Harney & Moten in ‘California’ etc etc. I also clock that I have been pre-occupied by words: what about the textures of other audio, the qualities of the recording itself over the phone line, I didn’t really listen out for these?”