“Witness” is a performance for one audience member at a time. In “Witness” the viewer is configured as an accomplice to the performance event, a ritual in which the tenuous mantle (or blindfold) of power is borrowed, trafficked, and stolen. Within intimate encounters we are challenged to acknowledge our participation in acts of torture, violence and exploitation, and to confront our responsibility for the other. Then, we are charged to act.
The performance is installed in the host site for up to four hours per day with performances looping every half-hour. Audience-participants sign up in advance for individual 25 minute showings. At the time of her appointment the single audience member enters a room equipped with a video camera that projects her/his image on a TV monitor outside, for others to see. Inside this private space the Witness participates in an interactive performance tailored specifically to her. Throughout this performance the Witness is asked to take action, to sign her name, to record her voice on tape, testifying that she has taken part. She is asked to make a contribution to the score. Upon exiting, she is asked to evaluate her own participation.
Every day violent actions are performed in your name without your consent. This is the core of “Witness”: inaction is implicit consent. “Witness” confronts you with the fact that you are part of a system that you may not understand, may not agree with, but of which you are already an agent. Suddenly you find yourself perpetuating the master narrative because you are trapped within it. Witnessing is the choreography given to the participants, positioning them in intimate relation to the performers’ bodies, costumes, and props (“weapons”). As Witness Marcela Fuentes observed, “In this piece, witnessing is our score, the corporeal script that cracks open the role of the spectator, summoning the ethical dimension of watching a controversial event. In “Witness,” the supposedly neutral viewer becomes a co-participant in the action.”
In this performance you are exposed to the ways in which your agency is compromised. “Witness” challenges the liberal notion of agency itself. The challenge becomes: how do you exercise your agency strategically so as not to compromise your moral beliefs? You have crossed the threshold, surrendered your voice, sight, and body, and now, you must act.
“Witness” has been performed at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE); UCLA; California State University, Long Beach; and Viracocha, San Francisco.