Arts & Entertainment
2 min

New works explore our love/hate relationship with social media

Harbourfront Centre’s Hatch program includes production about elderly women on Twitter

By exploring the Twitter accounts of three elderly women, Rob Kempson’s #legacy looks at the footprint we leave in the world with the traces we scatter across the internet. Credit: Courtesy of Hatch

Artists working in live performance tend to have complicated relationships with social media. On one hand, technologies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have all but supplanted conventional media and critics as the primary means of attracting audiences to your work. On the other hand, when audiences do arrive, they might spend the entire show poking at their smartphones. 

The 2014 edition of Hatch will see artists working in performance examining their relationships to social media. By exploring the Twitter accounts of three elderly women, Rob Kempson’s #legacy looks at the footprint we leave in the world with the traces we leave scattered across the internet.

“I was interested in working with older people, precisely because the internet is often considered the domain of the young,” Kempson says. “My generation makes a lot of assumptions about what older folks can and can’t do. Besides that, I can think of no better hook for a show than three old ladies on Twitter.”

Guatemalan-Canadian artist Francisco-Fernando Granados’s The Ballad of _____ B allows the public to shape the script through social media. As a teenager, Granados was interviewed by the Vancouver Sun for an article on immigrant and refugee youth arriving in Canada in the aftermath of 9/11. Years later, a friend who teaches ESL found his interview published in its entirety in a workbook for one of her classes. Playing with this format, the script will be published as a Google Form, and audiences will be asked to build the text by filling in the blanks.

“It was a little disturbing to have my story come back to me in that way, so I knew I had to do something with it,” Granados says. “I wanted to reclaim this text, and the only way to do that was to make it the material for an artwork. Hatch’s proposal to work with social media felt like something that could complete the idea.”

Like its impact on how performance is created, disseminated and appreciated, social media has also had obvious repercussions on the daily lives of those who use it. Both artists admit a love/hate relationship with the technology.

“If it keeps you interested in things, if it allows you to see things you wouldn’t have otherwise seen, talk to people you wouldn’t have otherwise met, then there’s something useful,” Granados says. “But you need to let your mind rest, to process the information, to let the bullshit sink to the bottom and have the ideas that really interest you stay with you. You can only do that by living in the real world.”

“I can’t imagine living without my iPhone, but that fact makes me feel a little sick to my stomach,” Kempson adds. “On the other hand, I rarely watch TV or see movies. I prefer theatre and books and records, so I’m kind of an analogue guy. Maybe that’s why I tend to get along with grandmas. And why I’m still single.”