“At this point in history, it feels like our minds and bodies are in the process of developing a new kind of sensory language in response to digital proximity.”

A written conversation between Barbara Matijević and Kerstin Schroth 

In Forecasting you switch around the established notion of the laptop being the prolongation of our body. How do you see in your work the relation between this object and the body?

Another established notion is that our neurological processes have changed due to digital revolution. People today are sophisticated enough to make quite large leaps of cognition from small amounts of information, yet theatre performances rarely feel as if they were made for the information age. With Forecasting, we wanted to challenge this.

The show is based on a tension between the images of the bodies on the screen and my own, physically present body on the stage. The spectator is forced to rapidly switch between these two different registers of perception, between these two different spatial and temporal coordinates. This is what we naturally do when we surf the internet in our living room, but what happens when this occurs on a theatre stage and we experience it collectively? It’s about finding a form that fits the modern age, about diving into contemporary narratives in a modular form. One might call it narrative surfing. It might be seen as the modern form of epic theatre.

What does the Web represent for you?

In our work as artists, we use the Web as a storage of humanity’s stories and artefacts, like a never-ending museum without walls, in which the only ticket to pay is the one to stay connected.

To make our shows, we act like curators, handpicking items and arranging them into new relationships.

We use theatre as a place for decoding how the all-pervasive presence of the web is changing us, a place in which it is possible to take a step back and collectively observe the new stories, metaphors and ways of being in the world that emerge as the result of our online immersion.

Forecasting has become even more actual during the continuing pandemic we are going through. During the lockdown, almost everybody was left with the fact that nearly all interaction with other people happened via the virtual world. What did this period of physical distancing create in you and your work?

It confirmed my belief that online communication, apart from creating various kinds of problems, is also capable of creating a new kind of proximity, a different kind of intimacy.

I think that during the lockdown, many people discovered just how much is possible to convey through a screen.

Many times in our online research we have been overwhelmed by the raw, direct emotions coming from videos posted by people sharing some experience in their life, be it a struggle with an illness, with an ideology or with some DIY project.

People enjoy connecting to a field much larger than their immediate surroundings and benefiting from the feedback of anonymous users worldwide.

This kind of intimate sharing with complete strangers on the internet has often been the trigger for our work, because it is similar to the relationship between theatre makers and their audience.

At this point in history, it feels like our minds and bodies are in the process of developing a new kind of sensory language in response to digital proximity.

Barbara Matijević: Prognostics lecture
THU 12.11.2020, at 12 (online)
The lecture is part of the Prognostics lecture series supported by Saastamoinen Foundation, and organised in collaboration with the Academy of Fine Arts of Uniarts Helsinki. Take part in the Prognostics lecture on Zoom Read more about the performance Forecasting

Interview conducted in July/August 2020.

Forecasting is going to be presented as part of Moving in November: Traces from November during 2021.

Photo: Jelena Remetin