Atë: Character Study for Tragic Theater
Installed for UCLA Design | Media Arts thesis show Delete Me
May 18th - June 1st 2017
Teleprompter, custom software.
Developed in collaboration with Sam Wolk.

There is an uncanny, haunted quality to text carried by a teleprompter. The origins of the technology are the Pepper’s Ghost illusion, an optical illusion employed in theater for projecting an actor as an apparition on the stage. For most practical purposes now, teleprompters are used so that someone can speak into a camera while reading a text in realtime, perfect for news anchors and politicians. The glass is 30% reflective, 70% transparent, and creates the illusion of floating text. In most circumstances, teleprompters are run by a team of technicians. They load a speech into a computer, and sit there watching the speaker, moving the text as they move through the speech.

In the recent election, candidate Donald Trump made much of his ability to speak outside of mainstream political institutions. A climax of this rhetoric was his dismantling of his teleprompters at a campaign rally in Florida. It feels better without them, right? I like it better... , he suggestively quipped. The Presidential Teleprompter, ubiquitous and invisible, is often used at political gatherings of many different sizes and shapes. It is a material signifier of a peculiarly American intersection of speech, technology and politics.

Politics are the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area. Ethics are a set of moral guidelines that determine how someone should conduct themselves (and also refers to the branch of knowledge that deals with such moral principles). Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy that deals with the principles of beauty and artistic taste. Erotic is a way of describing things that tend to arouse sexual desire or excitement. Aristotle once defined tragic theater in terms of the catharsis it delivered, the renewal that comes from the purgation of pity and fear. Stanley Cavell wrote that as tragedy moves into the world, the world becomes theatrical. He then went on to say the great historical tragedies were national, so it is no surprise that our nations have now become tragic.