- Enter the Kitchener Public Library.
- Follow the signs to find How iRan – ask the very helpful desk staff if you have problems locating the table with the iPods and volunteers who will assist you in your tour.
- Trade a piece of ID for an iPod.
- Plug in and put your headphones on
- Listen, hit shuffle, travel – repeat.
How iRan is the latest creation by Productive Obsession from Calgary featuring a non-linear narrative crafted through the use of iPod technology.
The concept is simple – when considering this technology, artist Ken Cameron determined the two most important features of an iPod. iPods remove a listener from others, effectively isolating them in public spaces, and iPods have a decent ability to create randomization through the use of shuffle.
Consider the isolation – this project relies on a narrative told over a series of ten tracks. Each track contains a piece of a story as it pertains to one of three characters in a play that makes use of the library for an environmental theatre piece. The isolation removes the audience from one another, and from the interactions of the library space. The other members of the broader community fade into a back ground, and the level of immersion through the aural response to the technology transports the listener sometimes out of the library and into the spaces created around the building.
There’s a bedroom in a quiet reading room. There’s a circle of children’s shoes. There’s artifacts and pieces of the lives of three characters that get wrapped into a story with the narrative pulling each listener deep into a tale. It is you, the objects, and an engaging story.
The shuffle as a part of the technology has allowed iPod users to build playlists and shift to a different random song in their chosen tracks on demand. The story here is build to be listened to in random order – thereby having to piece together the narrative to rebuild it. This is further gamefied into a collaborative practice by only getting one character’s story out of a trio. The idea is that with the shuffle, and the single story, the audience will need to meet to piece together the rest of the tale from all perspectives – thereby getting the complete story.
Consider this: a single story with ten different scenes over three characters. When you add the unexpected possibilities of this being in a vibrant public space, there becomes an uncountable amount of ways to experience this narrative.
The story happens primarily in a library where the three characters’ lives bring them in and out of this space. In times when the narrative is not located in the library, artifact, art and even an installation of a bedroom (details right down to a plate with cookie crumbs) builds a detailed world inside a single building. The ability to interact kinetically, aurally, and visually through artifact gives the impression of listening to the echo of something that occurred into the physical spaces visited. The reading room used to illustrate the bedroom is so detailed and removed that the participant feels transported away from the library in the moments when the story is located in that manufactured space.
An additional layer is the addition of unexpected elements within the space – other people. This piece occurs in a live location milling with energy and library patrons. The movement of a person on the other side of a stack can be enough to build a different aspect of this carefully crafted story. Running in to another audience member who may even be a close friend becomes a non-interaction.
There is a subversion in the performance of a sometimes loud play that includes panicked phone calls and romantic strife in a space that is the emblem of temples of silence. There is a breaking of a code and pushing against an ideology in the function of space. The piece does not create strife in the space, or rally against the institution of libraries. What it does do is force the mind to push beyond the limitations of space – a library is not a library just through bricks and mortar. A library is a space with institutional conventions and rules (and books!!), and in a piece like this, these rules slip and allow for a transcendence. The temples of silence becomes pure temples of story: temples of information through the arts. The subversion echoes through the piece in rebellions, acts of passion that end well, and in a struggle to triumph over oppression.
You can check this piece out at the Kitchener Public Library.