T: It’s been a year. It’s been a year of dancing along. Dancing…. Alone. It’s been a year. That goes without saying. And everyone has had a year. Well, not you Armando. You are new.
So tell me what happened.
T: I was alone, and I had a vision. It was visionary!!! I wanted to make you. A partner. Someone to dance with. I used to dance a lot with duet partners… improvisationally, choreographically, socially. And then there were none. I was alone in a basement. I dreamt of you, and I wondered, how could you move? Could you be moved? Could you be an understudy of sorts… somewhere between an understudy and collaborator. I sent out an inquiry, you should have read it, hi I’m a dancer, are you a robotics engineer? Let’s make an Armando! And I found John.
Is John here right now?
Where is John?
T: You know when your stomach falls, but not in a fun way? I used to love when my dad would drive quickly over little hills, my stomach in free fall. But not that. The kind that stays down. It’s like a light dread. A little dread. You know, I’m not so much bothered by my requests not being met, but more the lack of response. Like...
T: Like go buy $1000 of parts and equipment. Learn to solder. Reinforce the gender binary by using male and female headers to connect the Arduino to the Arduino shield. Maybe it’s an Ardvin? I’m still confused on that.
You’ve lost me.
T: I lost you, I lost John. But let me tell you how I started: Step one for stackable Arduino headers-- “Before you can use this board as an Arduino shield, you need to solder four of the five included Arduino header strips to the set of holes highlighted in red in the picture above. The headers should be oriented so that the female sockets rest on the top side of the shield and face up while the male pins protrude down through the board, and the solder connections should be made on the underside of the shield.
I am equal parts confused, impressed, curious, and worried. I can tell you are trying to demonstrate something… like that you chose a rather difficult entry point for this project. I can forgive you for that, even if it was fairly arbitrary, and perhaps you should have stuck with your initial impulse to just put me on a Roomba to see what happens.
T: You are too heavy, and you can’t control a Roomba, it just goes where it goes, based on its programming and sensing. But the way I devised you, you’d be completely controlled by a performer. I mean, not so much your presence, or your personality, but the way you’d move around the room, or the studio. You are a stand-in.
What I don’t get is why I’m why I’m… so… analog. I have this… shadow.
T: Yeah, I’m hoping you’ll get an upgrade soon.
When is John coming?
T: I have to find a new John.
What’s wrong with the old John?
T: Do you know what ghosting is?
I think so. The practice of ending all communication without any explanation.
T: Yeah, he ghosted me! We got pretty far together, running test code that ran with the two motors. Honestly we only need another day or two of work, but it’s not something I can really do alone. This project was about being less alone. Or at least having more fun while being “alone.” I try to be patient and understanding with John… I really don’t know what’s going on or where he went. It’s like a mental guessing game. For him, you are an extracurricular project. For me, you are critical.
T: I mean, in a way. You’re helping me think about my body, what it means to be a body, what it means to dance and create with another person instead of on my own. You’re also helping me think about autonomy and surrender.
“With too much distance, there can be no connection But too much merging eradicates the separateness of two distinct individuals. Then there is nothing more to transcend, no bridge to walk on, no one to visit on the other side, no other internal world to enter.”
And John is gone.
No more John. He could show up again, but for now, it’s like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
I’m also noticing… you’ve been making work about hauntology and specters… so there’s some irony in you being ghosted.
Yeah, the specter of John, the specter of inadequacy, the specter of projects unfinished. I’m really interested in how specters are present as a sort of cloud, or mood. The sort of disembodied but tangible things that exist. The minor gestures, the underneath. I like thinking about hauntology because it’s so purposefully slippery, but resonates within my dances, which sometimes explore and celebrate sensations of loneliness, inadequacy, failure.
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