Overlooked performances: mobile computing, site-responsive arts practice and the spectral dramaturgy of vanitas
AuthorWalton, Robert Ellis
AffiliationVictorian College of the Arts
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2022-04-16. This item is currently available to University of Melbourne staff and students only, login required.
© 2019 Robert Ellis Walton
This practice-led research project uses observations from the creation of Vanitas, an ‘artwork for smartphones and cemeteries’, to establish a critical framework for discussing the impact of mobile computing on site-responsive arts practices, and by extension, everyday experiences of outdoor locations. This is achieved through the examination of overlooked performances which extend from the performance ontology of computation to human practices perpetuating seamlessness in mixed-reality artworks. By investigating how performances are created and experienced when live-action events within a site-responsive performance are combined with smartphones (mobile computing devices) and electronic messaging (email, telephony, SMS, and in-app messaging controlled by transmedia networked communication systems), the research addresses in microcosm the complex impact of mobile computing on what David Berry terms a “softwarized society”. The three parts of this thesis, and the artwork Vanitas, employ contrasting approaches to overlooked performances in mobile computing and site-responsive performance. Part One takes a high-level systems approach to key reference artworks and presents ways to identify their common features and contrast them with Vanitas. Part Two takes a ‘low-level’ immanent approach to the history of smartphone technology to identify the ‘overlooked performance ontology of computation’ and applies this to the ‘illuminated podcast’ mode of Vanitas Chapter One. Part Three employs an exegetical method of ‘spectral dramaturgical writing’ to incorporate the complex range of voices present in the walk through Melbourne General Cemetery with Vanitas Chapter Two. By employing a hybrid practice-led research methodology that combines the realisation of Vanitas (30%) with a written thesis (70%) this PhD provides a positive contribution to the growing creative and critical response to the impact of mobile computing on performance practice, digital media and death. It proposes a number of critical concepts such as ‘overlooked performances’, the ‘ideology of seamlessness’, ‘spectral dramaturgy’ and via the ‘overlooked performance ontology of computation’ provides a way reconsider digital data, media, software and interface from within an immanent performance paradigm.
KeywordsArts Practice; Site-responsive; Site-specific; Smartphones; Mobile Computing; Dramaturgy; Performing Arts Practice; Performance Studies; Cemeteries; Digital Art; Practice Led; Art and Computing; Transdisciplinary Research; Spectral Dramaturgy; Vanitas Art; Seamlessness; Audio Walk; Mobile Devices
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