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Russian revolution! Performance art inspired by cosmonaut’s orbit

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The space race continues — in Clinton Hill!

At Jack arts center on Sept. 19, a collective of artists will launch a far-out performance installation inspired by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s 1961 Earth orbit.

In “Digital Soul Cycle,” a performer will be suspended inside a hanging capsule for 109 minutes — the length of Gagarin’s orbit. The performer — obscured from audience view inside — will be completely immobilized except for their hands, which will be used to deliver live, unscripted Twitter communication to the audience and other performers outside. The spacey scenario acts as a metaphor for the way technology is disconnecting members of society from one another, said one of the organizers.

“A comparison is made between travel through outer space and inner, cyber space and its inevitable effects on the human psyche,” said Wild Torus collective co-founder Mike Berlant — also known as Vlady Voz Tokk — who is a co-producer, creative director, and performer in the show. “The paradox, which we are all experiencing now, of being hyper-connected, yet increasingly isolated, is also paramount to this idea.”

In addition to the suspended space cadet, the show will feature video projections — incorporating the en-capsulated performer’s own tweets — on and around the vessel, and experimental music from live performers. Parts of the piece will also involve audience participation.

“There are no passive observers at Wild Torus performances, all visitors become direct participants in the happening,” said Berlant.

Wild Torus has been developing and evolving “Digital Soul Cycle” over the past year-and-a-half — almost as long as the art collective has been active, said Berlant. One of its first performances was the first stage of the cycle: the launch of the vessel. This was followed by another iteration at Silent Barn in Bushwick last November. The group has been building up the elaborate set — which includes the capsule, the structure it hangs from, and four large projection screens — across these performances, and will add even more elements for the Jack show. But each installation is its own flight of fantasy, said Berlant.

“Each performance will be a completely original piece that falls within the story of the ‘Digital Soul Cycle’ and represents a stage in the cycle and journey,” he said.

Even the theater owner doesn’t know exactly what will happen when the new show blasts off.

“It’s the kind of performance where you don’t really ever know what’s going to happen next, which I find thrilling, and at the same time, as a venue owner, a bit scary,” said Alec Duffy, Jack’s creative director.

“Digital Soul Cycle” at Jack (505 Waverly Ave. between Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue in Clinton Hill, www.jackny.org). Sept. 19 at 8 pm. $10.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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