Here’s a reminder how the Red Eye Theater’s fantastic New Works 4 Weeks series works: Artists get full access to the theater, technical support, and feedback from their similarly cool artistic cohorts as everyone develops their pieces. Then the selected artists have four public  performances featuring 15-minute excepts that make up an annual must-attend performance festival.

Alana Horton and Patrick Marschke kick off this year’s series with fitter perception, an audio-video presentation that “explores the anxiety embedded in the interfaces of our everyday lives”, a very exciting combination of new music and desktop art (yes, desktop art). As New Works starts, we sent some Quick Questions to Horton and Marschke about the festival, about all our interfaces and anxieties, about our failing senses, and why you should be hyped on the show.  

Secrets of the City: Your show is about “fallibility and inscrutability of perception”—did you know about the whole Laurel-Yanni thing ahead of time or is it just something you’ve always wanted to explore?

Patrick Marschke: Ha! Well actually that perceptual glitch actually ties in fairly explicitly with one of the main inspirations for the piece: the incredible taxonomy of human irrationalities that is Wikipedia’s List of Cognitive Biases, a list of 100+ known cognitive biases, or “tendencies to think in certain ways that can lead to systematic deviations from a standard of rationality.” The list encapsulates a ubiquitous communal anxiety around cognitive flaws, amplified by this massively crowd-sourced ‘wiki’ medium. I think the viral-ness of the Laurel-Yanni thing is a perfect example of just that.

Alana Horton: There’s a obviously huge cultural obsession that arises around illusions like Laurel-Yanni or “The Dress.” I think illusions are so popular because they point to something essential about our relationship with perception and truth. They pull back a curtain and make us ask: what is reality if not what we see, hear, feel, touch, and taste? There’s something magical, and frightening, about having that rug of “truth” pulled from under you. That feeling really lies at the heart of our piece.

One of the exciting elements of the New Works series is that the pieces are supposed to be “fresh”, although some of pieces are much newer and fresher than other pieces, so using something like, say, the Rotten Tomatoes freshness scale, how fresh is your new work 0-100%? And why?

PM: I’d say our work is more on the germination side of “fresh.” This workshop process has lead Alana I into VERY different territory than we normally create in. I come from the world of sound and music, Alana coming from a more dialogue based theater background. fitter perception is neither of those things… or both of those things recontextualized in such a way to spawn something completely different. It really speaks to how Red Eye’s workshop process really gives artists the chance to take huge risks, and ideally sow and harvest some very dope heirloom-esque theater tomatoes.  

AH: I guess I’d ask what it means to be “new” or “fresh” in a culture and time when nothing really feels original. I’ve always been really inspired by collage, and I think this work speaks to that — it’s taking a lot of familiar things like a computer desktop, a cursor, pop-ups, screensavers, and mixing and twisting them in unfamiliar ways, making you look at the interfaces of our lives from a new, maybe slightly magical perspective. So maybe we’re mashing up the rotten tomatoes to make 100% fresh ketchup . . .  or gazpacho?  

We’re always talking about how criminally underrated the space at the Red Eye is outside the die hard performance community—did you craft your show for the space in any way? Also, if your show is set on a computer desktop, how cluttered is the desktop going to be, as cluttered as a Baby Boomer’s Microsoft PC?

AH: We definitely could not have created this piece outside of Red Eye. Over the course of this five-month process, we were given total access to their space and equipment, and the work very much reflects that.  They have some really, really, really nice projectors and screens, and we just got to tinker with them and use them and figure out what worked best for the piece! Which turned out to be a pretty austere desktop, actually.  

PM: Honestly I’m still baffled as to why they let a weirdo music person (me) make a thing in their pristine black box theater. As a musician I can’t really think of a more captive audience (i.e. trapped in their seats with no bar to chit-chat at) than an experimental workshop theater audience. And we certainly did not take that opportunity lightly in creating this piece!   

Help sell the other pieces in the festival! What other pieces from your contemporaries in the New Works are you excited to see?

AH: There’s such an incredible range of projects. Anna Johnson has put together a literal blanket fort on stage, and is exploring self and scale with these complex textural sound and video installations. Billy Noble has made a really funny and also terrifyingly bleak piece about AI and chat-bots with one of my favorite performers in town, Lauren Rae Anderson. Arneisha Williams has put together a breathtaking solo dance/sound/spoken piece examining inclusion and exclusion and self and community that really shows how big Red Eye is as a space. And Kaya Lovestrand is playing around with dance and poetry to create a super rigourous, quirky, abstract piece of duet movement. All the pieces are weird and experimental and engaging and incredible and you should definitely come and see them. Sold?

PM: I regularly forget that this evening of works is in no way “curated.” Folks applied with a inkling of an idea for a project and were given 5 months to make it into something people would buy tickets for. Any of the themes we have mentioned could really be extrapolated on any of the works. Having just run the tech minutes before writing this I can truly attest that the other works really frame each other in a way that I could have never imagined. I think this speaks to the community and vision that Miriam and Steve have cultivated over their 35 years! That goes for the Independent Acts over the next 4 weeks as well!

Tickets: Starts this Thursday-Sunday, $10 each show, $50 festival pass. 

Red Eye Theater, 15 W 14th St, MPLS;