Video Call Calamity

A pink poster with wonky purple borders has the logo of Andro and Eve with a turquoise triangle and white writing top and centre. The poster title is ‘Video Call Calamity’. Two ‘Video call’ style boxes form the main image. One with the name ‘Squinky’ has a digitally distorted black and white illustration of a person’s head and shoulders. They are looking upwards with a cheeky expression and have short dark hair. The other video box has the name ‘Caller Two’ and a blank face with a question mark in the middle. Additional question marks surround this face, and 8-bt style star graphics in lime green decorate the poster.

Today on the blog we hear from artist Zoyander Street, whose new online performance, Video Call Calamity, Andro and Eve is producing.

Read on to find out about their inspirations behind the work, and some honest discussion of their struggles as someone who identifies as neurodiverse.

During the various lockdowns and shift towards online events, I noticed more people becoming aware of social discomforts that they perhaps wouldn’t ordinarily notice in the lives they had become accustomed to. There were articles about how eye contact is actually quite draining for most people, or about the dysphoria of seeing yourself reflected back at you in a small window constantly, while you talk to others. I was also thinking about my own writing, and the discomfort I have inventing dialogue that sounds like real people, which matched up with the discomfort I feel performing normal personhood in day to day life.

A slim, white transmasculine person with short brown hair is seen from waist up standing three quarter view to camera. They are wearing a green long sleeved t shirt and have brown eyes. They are in a dimly lit workspace with three computer monitors behind them
Zoyander Street

I wanted to make a piece of work about that, and when I think about games and theatre that explore those feelings, Squinky’s* work is the first thing on my mind. So I wanted to collaborate with them and see what we could do together.

*Squinky is a queer new media artist and theatre practitioner based in Montreal, with a background in game development

I’ve made a lot of “games” that focus on interactive characters based on real people, so that you can just have a simulated conversation with them without trying to achieve anything

I’ve been working in indie games for just over a decade now, but until this project, almost everything I’ve made has been a single player experience, something that you interact with alone. I’m very interested in constructing a partner who you are interacting with, and I’ve made a lot of “games” that focus on interactive characters based on real people, so that you can just have a simulated conversation with them without trying to achieve anything.

I like the way that pacing and glitches affect the way you read that software partner, almost like the computer version of body language. I’m not often funny on purpose, and most of my work is kind of serious but chill – this piece is a big shift for me in that sense, as well as being the first theatre-adjacent thing that I’ve made!

I have wanted to get into theatre for a while, partly because I am fascinated by performance and the way that people can completely change the meaning of things just by altering their tone or posture. I’ve also had really moving experiences with improvised story games that are played in person, either around a table or in a theatre space. I want to be able to work with those dynamics that emerge between people and the narrative gaps that we all fill in when given a few very gestural directions. It’s been a real joy to get theatre residencies as part of the development of this project, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I get to explore next.

– Zoyander Street, September 2021.

Video Call Calamity has its very first performance on 6 October! Tickets are on sale now. Find out more and book here.

Video Call Calamity is part of New Conversations, a programme funded and delivered by the British Council, Canada Council for the Arts, Farnham Maltings, and the High Commission of Canada in the UK. It has also been supported in its initial stages by Sheffield Theatres.

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