AVI ALPERT, MASHINKA FIRUNTS & DANNY SNELSON
“Unsearchable” is a collaborative lecture-performance that asks, what remains beyond the database? From this basic question emerges a host of others: what is the future of erudition in an age of pervasive Google-ability? If one of the major problems with citation is the loss of human originality, is there a defense—say an Emersonian triumph of the person who cites—or are we entering along the path of singularity and nothing more? How might we approach something like the “unequal distribution of searchability,” i.e., that some populations are rendered searchable for political purposes while others are left to relative obscurity? The performance allows us less to answer these questions as much as to expose the depth and extension of the problem of the unsearchable. Adopting the presentational aesthetics of a scholarly lecture, “Unsearchable” is part participatory panel discussion and part indoor expedition party in search of Purloined Letters, Maltese Falcons, and Our Last Years at Marienbad.
Before the event begins, a Q&Q sheet is distributed to the audience with a list of questions to direct the “post-show” discussion. Projected video alternates between classic-noir footage and carefully crafted Google searches, which net no results. This alternation segues into unscripted video interviews with the three characters who will guide us through the performance: Theory (Avi Alpert), Archive (Danny Snelson) and Narrative (Mashinka Firunts). As the video comes to a close, we appear at a panel table before the audience.
Successively, Theory, Archive and Narrative introduce their research on the subject of unsearchability from their respective positions. Each of us take up the questions of our individual character: the theoretical stakes, the archival histories and the narrative parallels and possibilities; playing out the theme of the unsearchable through various subterfuges. Theory re-writes three famous letters about war into an unrecognizable montage of jargon and pressing concerns. Archive data sculpts Google search results into untraceable outputs. Narrative investigates detective fiction from the Borgesian labyrinths of Chandler and Hammett to the rhizomatic mazes of the French new novel. Each character forces the paradox, always setting it forth but never seeking a resolution so much as a perpetual extension of the domain of the unsearchable.
“Unsearchable” concludes with a Q&Q session.