Dear _____, Please Imagine my Birthday, LAPSody Festival 2019, Helsinki, Finland (chamber larp with active audience)
Performance: February 21, 2019
A major project in the Live Art & Performance Studies master’s program is the organization and curation of a Live Art festival/conference named LAPSody festival. This festival takes place every two years at the Theatre Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki.
The opening night of the 7th LAPSody Festival fortuitously landed on the evening of my thirtieth birthday. After taking on the daunting position of technical manager for the festival’s eighteen artists, I felt I wouldn’t have time to celebrate it. In an attempt to subvert this situation, or have my cake and eat it too, I decided to organize a grand birthday performance larp. In doing so, I combined and reimagined my roles as curator, technical manager and student. Larp seemed an appropriate medium for my performances as both birthday boy and amateur curator. Through gamifying my own social life, I also threw an awkward birthday for my newly acquired technical and performative curatorial position
I approached the festival thematic of “Signatures,” as a way of thinking through how the self is constantly being reconstructed through a web of social relations and societally produced entanglements and symbols. Our narratives are based on the stories we tell of ourselves and those that people tell us. In response to this, I sought to create a self-portrait where the agency of who tells the story is distributed collectively.
Since having my friends and family all travel in person from Canada to help celebrate my birthday was unlikely, I sought to bring them as avatars. I could think of no more honest way to exhibit my signature than to introduce the festival to some of my closest community. Thus, rather than showing up in person, they would offer their social identities and an idea of the relationships we share. A willing participant in Helsinki could then larp them. Drawing upon the voices and thoughts of my loved ones, and allowing past and present social environments to mix, this piece asked how much of our sense of identity, and our past relationships and actions are filtered through social memory; the memory of others and our own?
The performance was broken into two parts: a pre-larp workshop and subsequent game with active audience serving as a brief introduction to chamber larp in the style of Nordic Larp, a form of larp game design. Meanwhile there was a video projection depicting a birthday scene which I had created at a friend’s birthday in Victoria several months previous. The video was designed to evoke a layered perception of social reality and allow the audience to help imagine my birthday and place themselves in the context of this imagined life. The video piece included name titles for each person depicted so that larpers could study and mimic behaviors.
Throughout the workshop and the subsequent game, participants built a deeper sense of understanding of the artist and his social milieu. In this way, the larp aimed to explore the ways in which the self is socially produced and sustained through interaction, memory and community.