Ben Michalak, “Follow the Path”

My creative interests include theater, videography, music composition, writing, and mixed media visual art. In preparing and blueprinting my artist book in late September, I made the decision to use each of these mediums. “Follow the Path” is a site-specific project involving a fictional immersive theater piece around the space it inhabits. The video element shows an audience member’s perspective, with a voice-over recording and original music mimicking headphones used to guide them around the production. As it is a theater piece, the written aspect is an 8 ½ x 11-inch script from the show complete with notes, wrinkles, prop insertions, and notes from the actors. These interests combined created “Follow the Path.”

Forming a central idea to stake each medium was a haphazard task. The creation of the twelve videos—and their corresponding text—spanned a month-long process of scheduling actors, writing lines, and diagramming scene action. I began with the idea of single sensory stimulation; this had its roots in the image of someone glued to their phone. The control of information through social media and hidden ads seemed analogous to the basic components of the fictional theater piece: headphones playing an unfamiliar voice, telling the audience member where to go and what to think. Instead of sight, I focused in on hearing to establish control. Yet, as the project continued, the control elements took a more dynamic form. I applied it not only to the videos and audience member, but the actors in the production. In these respects, began to apply more broadly and adopt a more paranoid tone. 

The presentation is an abstraction from reality: a fictional play, characters in the form of actors, and a manufactured audience member who follows instructions too willingly. An uncanny valley experience, per Mashahiro Mori’s concept, could generate many reactions. Someone could view “Follow the Path” and immediately identify the abstraction. Likewise, the fake dates and could lead someone off the scent. There might not be a discernable meaning to pull from this project. For some people, the location and materials of this project might appear to be a memorial for the theater production that never happened. Either way, the hard text of the project suggests multiple interpretations centered around the idea of ‘control.’ 

“Follow the Path” is propelled by a single idea, but its parts contribute several meanings. However this project is viewed, I am joyed to have completed a project spanning my creative interests. 

To view the digital content of “Follow the Path,” click on this hyperlink.