Obie-winning performer, writer, and interactive-electronics artist Andrew Schneider's work examines the ever-blurring boundaries between technology and humanity. His newest production, "NERVOUS/SYSTEM," is the third prong of a triptych that includes "YOUARENOWHERE" (2016) and "AFTER" (2018).
Schneider is joined by collaborators Lindsay Head, Antonio Irizarry, Kedian Keohan, Peter Musante, Alicia ayo Ohs, Ashley Marie Ortiz, Jamie Roach, and T. L. Thompson at Lumberyard this month as part of the facility's residency partnership with the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). "NERVOUS/SYSTEM" will be performed live at Lumberyard on 11/3 at 7pm or 11/4 at 2pm. Below, Schneider answers some questions about his artistic approach.
What's your background? What led you to your multimedia hybrid style?
I grew up in Milwaukee. My parents got a VHS camcorder when I was about five or six. I played with it all the time, making videos of my friends, and I realized I could create whole worlds using the parameters of that video camera. Later, I was going to go to school for black and white photography and I decided to study theater instead. I ended up combining photography with performance, which led to video creeping into my shows. I moved to New York and got internships with [seminal experimental theater companies] the Wooster Group and the Builders Association and learned how to tell stories over space and time—not just with humans, but also with recordings, visuals, and lights.
How did your whole wrenching-the-soul-from-the-maw-of-machinery aesthetic start?
I think that started when an ex of mine texted me to say, "I love you." I thought that heralded the collapse of society. I was, like, "What are we doing, writing love notes with our cell phones?" I applied to grad to school for interactive electronics to study that idea from the inside out, and then I started coming up with ways to map machinery, sound, light, and video to human gesture. That became an accurate representation of what was in my mind. As if I could stick the audio cables into my brain and express myself.
Your method is an onslaught of the senses. What's the idea behind that approach?
The idea is to overstimulate, overstimulate, overstimulate—so that I can then take all that away, and you'll be left with a simple idea that you can look at in a new way.
Speaking of feeling overwhelmed, how would you say the current state of the world has shaped your work?
We [Schneider and his collaborators] don't necessarily make political work. But in working on this piece, every day I've been thinking about the power of distraction. People are very easy to control when they're fighting amongst themselves.
What do you most hope people take away from the experience of seeing "NERVOUS/SYSTEM"?
I hope that people take away more questions than answers. I hope they feel change inside and don't know why.