Participatory Digital Performance
Virtual - Worldwide
Created By: Khaled Alwarea
Dance/Choreography: Nidal Abdo & Marie Ghson
Live Performance: Khaled Alwarea & Nidal Abdo
Intro Video adapted from original text by Jonathan Dagher for Amnesty International UK
The chemical explosion at the port of Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4, 2020, destroyed the capital city, leaving over 300,000 people homeless, injuring up to 8,000 people, and killing hundreds. The explosion was a result of government corruption and incompetence in a country already divided by deep sectarianism, classism that originates from the colonial history of the country. Religions and politics have divided Lebanese society into distinct communities geographically, linguistically, and socially which for 40 years has been keeping them in their own loops of information and misinformation.
Let’s think about how algorithms influence how communities consume and access news.
In this social artistic experiment, we would like the participants to explore the confusion of information/misinformation as experienced by the Lebanese people since the explosion, by exploring the most used words on social networks on the night of the catastrophe. And to collectively translate the catastrophic into an artistic intervention.
Online, the way we consume information is dictated by AI algorithms. But the information loops differ significantly between communities who access news in Arabic, English, and French — stemming from an intersection of their socio-cultural and economic lived reality.
Are algorithms a reflection of culture, or are cultures determining algorithms?
SETTING THE LOOP:
An IT ran an algorithm based research aiming to gather the most used words in the Lebanese digital sphere at the night of the explosion, in three languages (Arabic, English, and French) revealing three different lines of inquiry, three different lived realities, and three different scopes of impact — all linked to the same catastrophe.
Due to technical and time limitations, we managed to gather the most used 25 words in Arabic and English only. With 13 common words between Arabic and English, there was a total of 37 words.
WHAT IS PARTICIPATORY DIGITAL PERFORMANCE?
Participants are given a verbal prompt to create sentences from within a set of words of which each has been assigned a musical note by a musician and a body movement by a dancer. Each sentence will be performed by an algorithm, expressing the disconnect between the two loops of information.
Each of the words is assigned a corresponding musical note inspired by the urban sounds of Beirut, creating an audial dictionary of sounds that is fed to the algorithm.
Each of the words will be translated into a choreography move by three dancers — a dancer for each word pool — where beforehand each move will be filmed and fed to the algorithm with its corresponding word. Creating a visual dictionary of moves.
The goal of the artists in this project is to explore these parallel experiences as both clash and harmony through a musical expression of each news loop composed of the key search terms of each language, choreographed by the participants — and performed by the artists —
Putting the two-word pools next to each other will allow us to explore the difference in the digital loop of each language in relation to the catastrophe.