Presence and mediation: On the participatory SMS performance Surrender Control (2001, Tim Etchells)
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionInternational Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media. 2015, 11 (1), 54-64. 10.1080/14794713.2014.915649
In the participatory performance event Surrender Control (2001, Tim Etchells), the audience is asked to submit to a distant authority that will dictate their thoughts and behaviour through the medium of SMS. Subscribing to the event, one agrees to ‘surrender’ to the instructions one receives for a period of five days. In this article, Surrender Control is analysed in terms of presence and performativity, discussing the notion of a performative presence in relation to phenomena such as mediation, physical presence and absence. In this aesthetic analysis based on the author's own experience of having participated in the event, the following questions are asked: how is authority established in the performance; and how is the effect of a present other, monitoring our actions, accomplished in the medium of words? J. L. Austin's influential theory of performative speech acts as well as Hans-Ulrich Gumbrecht's thoughts on presence production and presence effects serve as the main frames of theoretical reference on which the analysis is funded.