Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dance with Coltan

Throughout the DML conference, there were interludes staged by my UCI colleague, dance professor and performance artist Sheron Wray. Wray's project Texterritory uses audience responses keyed in by text messages on mobile telephones and smart phone apps that replicate musical instruments to widen the circle of performance to include those who would otherwise be bystanders. In her latest work, an anxious character "Grace," comes to Los Angeles seeking an odyssey of star-studded wonder and instead is redirected by her friend to pursue didactic dance classes and surreal gang tours. Her latest piece turns out to have a strong didactic component that is intended to get spectators more aware of how Coltan and other materials from Africa that go into mobile phones have costs to the political life, economic sustainability, and human rights landscape of mining countries. The last question viewers are left with is the number of phones that they have owned during an era of disposable consumer electronics in which devices are tied to plans, status, upgrades, and planned obsolescence.

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