“Far Flung” at Claire Trevor

The Internet is leaking! On the nights of Oct. 10-12, New York-based artist Ursula Endlicher unveiled “Far-Flung Follows Function,” a performance installation at the Experimental Media Performance Lab at our very own Claire Trevor School of the Arts.

“This piece expresses the confrontation of computers and data and human users,” Endlicher, creative director and performer, said.  Audience members in the lobby, fresh from the show, chatter, “Brilliant” and “What in the hell!?” For most, though, the show is riveting, and, well, “interesting.”

The stage is not a stage, but an open space — an industrial complex of tungsten spotlights high overhead, and below them, the installation itself. Green tape cuts microchip designs into the black padded floor. Two dozen or so spectators stand among the four stations that comprise the motherboard-set, free to explore the space, wary of stepping on any of the eight bodies that lay in, to keep up with the theme: standby mode. The set is a chimera of electronic waste and plastic, the e-waste of two decades, laid like Jenga bricks.

In the center is a hairball of HDMI cables under which a performer is tangled, and above and adjacent to him are two projector screens that broadcast sci-fi imagery. In the far corner, a box of spears tipped with familiar computer cursors lie in waiting. I see roller skates behind one of the set pieces and then, unceremoniously, the show begins.

The basic premise of the performance focuses on the population of a computer motherboard that faces three “computer crashes,” signified by Mac OS’ spinning beachball of death (Strangely, the beachball animation is overlaid with a ring of kaiser rolls, which for some reason reminds Endlicher of computer crashes). The population, with their icon-spears, must destroy the rainbow ball bread roll to save their motherboard. Their maestro: the lights and the music, which are controlled by live internet data feeds of weather and time-of-day from 30 cities around the world.

“It’s a different show every night,” Antoinette LaFarge, performer, producer and professor of digital media at UC Irvine, said. “There’s a certain task that we must do, so the result is the same. It’s the process that is improvised and spontaneous.” The performers — daemons, cursors and applications — respond to the data and ultimately respond to each other. It’s high-tech miming, essentially, as the bulk of the performance is gestural and athletic (save for the couple who play lovers stuck in a loop of reciting sappy, incomprehensible dialogue).

The plot isn’t much to chew on, despite its broad implications. What this performance excelled in was its improvisational synergy, an interplay that at times bordered on terrifying. Alexander Makardish, an accomplished fourth-year drama major, plays the MouseDaemon with an aggressive force.  Endlicher plays MouseCursor.

Robert Allen, performer and expert movement director, quells the tumbling, writhing, one-footed-rollerskating cast into controlled chaos (the most chaotic moment: Allen strips down to his tighty-whities and stares into space for three minutes straight). Under Naomie Winch’s moody lighting and Mark Caspary’s droning electronica, the Experimental Media Performance Lab bleeds into cyberspace. Right before the third and final crash, every sound, line and light blended. The performers’ mime masks melted into sweat and spit runoff. It is Walpurgis Night meets Office Space, as a performer smashes the set, shooting keyboard shrapnel skyward that falls like rain. Cursor-spears prod, the lovers finally kiss, daemons tumble, and the lights strobe — red, yellow, white, red, yellow. Everyone stops. The lighting diffuses, the crowd is ushered out, and unceremoniously it ends as it began.

This all happened right across the street, at the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, for a whopping $11 per ticket for UCI students. So see for yourself what’s across the bridge. An abundance of Anteater talent awaits.