When we met at a rehearsal for her upcoming piece Mainframe
, choreographer Katharine Hawthorne brought up Plato’s allegory of the cave. Audience members at one of her previous shows, Analog
, thought Hawthorne's use of shadow play was a reference to Plato's tale of our tendency to confuse an image with a thing itself. Though her intentions for Analog
were different, Hawthorne found the idea very rich.
Paraphrasing Rebecca Solnit’s book River of Shadows
, she talked about the way that the screen has begun to seem, for many, more real than the rest of life. She explained that Mainframe
was inspired, in part, by Plato and Solnit, but also by the evolution of the computer as an object. The piece will touch on the progression from giant clacking machines to handheld devices speaking in a woman’s voice, and the dancers will lift and dance around Siri’s forebears. Hawthorne reminded me that though punch cards and dot matrix printers have gone the way of the dodo, mainframes are still working away.
“We no longer think of the mainframe as something we engage with, but when you use an ATM you are connecting through a mainframe somewhere. It’s a bit creepy.”