Scan……be afraid

Identity, uncertainty and loss are explored in Scan through a combination of participation and projection.

Scan combines live performance, physical exploration of an unfamiliar space (lots of climbing up and down unlit stairs), and culminates in a dystopian “reveal” of surveillance footage, laser scanned images and movies. The culmination is delivered in a performance environment where the boundaries between performers, audience, technologists and observers are not so much blurred as destroyed.

Spot the scanner

Before we got to the big technological reveal, we were ‘rats in the maze’ of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’s building – on the roof terrace, in staircases, store-rooms, subterranean pipe-filled rooms where the lights were put out for reasons that became clear on IR camera feed later! The performers escorting added to the feeling of being unsettled; they moved smoothly from personae as guides and reassuring presences – to quite scary officials – providing contradictory information about whether we were being “scanned” or not; arguing with one another about what needed to happen next.

IMG_9155 The performers’ use of voice was impressive and, to my mind added greatly to the tension as we moved toward the final scenes. And one of them, from being a smooth-talking charming guide suddenly became a half-naked experimental subject in a theatre filled with audio announcements from bored officials concerning missing persons.

Some of the laser scanned images are of the participants/audience/experimental subjects shown in what I think of as “near realtime” – by that I mean content made so freshly that the paint has not yet dried; and the people in the room gasp as their laser-scanned simulacra are shown on a massive screen in front of them. Unsettling. And very impressive; to incorporate movies generated from laser scanned content less than 45 minutes from the start of the performance. The approach raises the level of risk – spotting Will Trossell at the keyboard manipulating the images and calmly driving the other 3D scanned imagery was, of course, how this risk was handled.

The really impressive elements of this performance centre on the manipulation of time. We were constantly being challenged with trying to understand whether what was happening was in realtime or not; did we really know what was going on, were we on camera, were we being ‘scanned’ – should we be worried? If we were being scanned – what did it mean?

So Bob Shiel and Jessica Bowles and their collaborators achieved a happening, an exploration of physical and virtual space, a performance and an experience of loss.

The Scan was performed as part of the Collisions Festival 2013 at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.  There was one performance only.   The work is the latest iteration of creative collaboration between the RCSSD and The Protoarchitecture Lab at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. In this instance, 3D scanning is introduced as a intermediary process that alters the observation of performance in time and space.

The Protoarchitecture Lab at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL is led by Bob Sheil and Emmanuel Vercruysse. Scan was created and devised in collaboration with Jessica Bowles of RCSSD, six recent graduates of RCSSD, ScanLAB projects and the artist collective SHUNT.

Further information: