Intimacy Agents

show overview
05-12-2020 Nowhere & Edgecut Part 3: 'Sanity' New York
Kat Mustatea, Heidi Boisvert. Edgecut performance series @ NEW INC at The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, and New York Live Arts.

Intimacy Agents shares intimate experience of kissing and caressing, in online public space.

Collaborative Performance: Intimacy Agents

For Intimacy Agents, we created a performance set-up in the public space of Nowhere, to explore how to share the intimacy of a kiss in an online environment. In real time, the performance of two kissing actors is shown, while their brain activity is measured and translated into a soundscape in real time.
Upon entering the space, the visitor's webcam image is placed in a "Nonagon," allowing one to physically move around the space and stand far away or close to the performers. Prior to participating, participants all choose their own heartbeat sound, which contributes to the overall soundscape. During the kissing performance, participants explore and move through the spherical virtual environment from a distance. The space is fueled by intimacy of a soundscape created from the shared, public heartbeat. As visitors move closer to the kissing actors, participants are asked to tune in to their individual heartbeat sound: the sound becomes more intense as proximity increases.
After the performance, participants are asked to respond to the questions: Did you feel part of the kiss?
Did you feel that your heartbeat affected their kissing experience? and How?

Can I touch you online?
We cannot live without touch. Touching is key to empathy, well-being and social cohesion. We touch to feel connected, safe and together, to trust. Today, increasingly people live solitary, or distant from beloved ones, limiting their experience of touch. In the physical public space, coming together in intimate proximity is discouraged, or even criminalized by the current pandemic developments. Online technologies extend our visual and sonic abilities beyond space and time, but research into remote social touch is still in its infancy. What kind of experience would we want from mediated touch? Current technological research into social touch often focuses on bio-metric control and surveillance technologies, AI algorithms, profiling and social media.
This approach raises critical questions about our privacy and our shared agency: to be creative, feeling to be in touch. Touching to trust emerges from embodied, playful tuning, in synchronizing and mirroring movements. Key to intimate experience are shared vulnerability and responsibility, in dialogue. Can we rethink communal experience of touch? Can we technologically expand our tangible bodies into communal embodiment in public space, for everyone to participate? Can we use the internet as a public space, to be in dialogue and to share storytelling, exploring future narratives of touch, through touch?

Intimacy Agents is part of the internationally presented and awarded Shared Senses.
This performance research includes Reflexive DataScapes, Multi Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI), Neurofeedback Systems and communal rituals on the concept of Mirror-Touch Synaesthesia. The Shared Senses rituals invite the audience to mirror and synchronize performance of touch, such as kissing and caressing, to co-create an intimate environment in (online) public space. Essential to these rituals are spectators witnessing participants and each other. Furthermore, biometric digital data are purposefully not scientifically validated or interpreted: instead, we explore spontaneous data as poetic, Dancing Data, of intimate interaction and experience through personal interpretation based on shared memories, storytelling and narratives. The audience reflects on digital data, as ‘Co-Actors’ in a new intimate practice of touch in public space.