22 23 & 24 May St George’s Church, Bloomsbury.
With kind support from The Elephant Trust
‘Birds 2012’ is a performance-based installation by me that examines the Utopian ideals that led to the development of computers and the Internet. This new story is woven together with Aristophanes narrative from his play Birds and in combination the two texts will draw spontaneous, literal and some haphazard parallels, inviting the navigate, through this multi-media experience of music, live performance, video and classical theatre.
The term hypertext was first used by Ted Nelson in the early 60’s in relation to his ill-fated project Xanadu. It “was supposed to be the universal, democratic hypertext library that would help human life evolve into an entirely new form. Instead, it sucked Nelson and his intrepid band of true believers into what became the longest-running vaporware project in the history of computing - a 30-year saga of rabid prototyping and heart-slashing despair.” (Gary Wolf, Wired Magazine)The idea that computers could be linked to share knowledge was picked up again by an Englishman Tim Berners Lee who was inspired by a Victorian book his parents kept ‘Enquire Within Upon Everything’ which offered advice on a diverse group of subjects from etiquette to medical information. Tim Berners Lee went on to write the code that would form the World Wide Web and successfully created a de-centralised system where ideas and people are directly linked.
Aristophanes (446-386 BC) was a comic play-write in ancient Athens, writing at a time when western culture was changing from an oral to a literate society. Along with Plato (427 - 347BC) Aristophanes was one of the few sources of the views and thoughts of the philosopher Socrates (496- 399 BC) who believed that the written word would be a threat to the power of thought and memory. His play Birds first performed in Athens (414 BC) and follows the trail of two characters, who leave Athens in order to build their own city in the sky “Cloudcuckoo land”. However on establishing the city the characters quickly find that familiar problems occur and no matter where they travel they can only rebuild Athens.
Similar ideas can be traced through the early days of other technologies such as Radio, Telephones, the printing press and writing. These systems all started with the hope of empowering the masses and freeing the mind by enabling thoughts and opinions firstly to be recorded, then to be circulated to a wider audience. The speed of this development dramatically increased and accelerated towards the end of the 20th Century. It was the Internet that broke with the traditions of the mass media that preceded it by enabling individuals to directly communicate with each other, this having many similarities to an oral society where messages are kept alive by repetition and word of mouth.
The story of the Birds 2012 begins in Ancient Athens with the adventures of Goodhope and Makemedo, and takes us on a hyper-linked, kaleidoscopic, fragmented ride, through the steadily increasing development of communications technology right up to the present day. On the journey it deals with arguments being fought over freedom of speech on the Internet and then takes a nostalgic glance into the future, to wonder what can be learned from Aristophanes?