What if you were in a movie that couldn't be screened because it's taking place all around you? That's the idea behind As If It Were the Last Time, an immersive theater piece by the UK artist Duncan Speakman that plays out in Brooklyn this Saturday, July 6.
The piece generates what Duncan, a member of the Bristol art collective Circumstance, calls a "subtlemob," a phenomenon he describes as "an invisible flashmob." You could also say it's a mob that isn't quite sure of its own existence. What happens is that people download a pair of MP3 files and listen to them through headphones or earbuds as they explore a particular location. The experience is designed to be shared with a friend—that is, with a single friend, so you're never quite sure if the other couples around you are part of the mob or just ordinary people looking around.
As the title suggests, As If It Were the Last Time is intended to get people to view the world around them as a special place. "We try to create cinematic music and images so the world appears filmic," Duncan explained when I emailed him about this. "People think things that are filmed are 'important,' so if we make your surroundings look like a film, maybe you will find them 'important' too.
"But we want the piece to blend into the everyday, to become part of the world, not overlay it. Mobile technology is wonderful at connecting us to remote people and places, but it often disconnects us from our immediate physical and social surroundings. So we try to hack it so that it encourages—forces?—people to connect with the world around them."
The piece, he added, "is really about notions of home and belonging, but it also became a requiem for my brother-in-law who passed away while we were making it. It tries to look at the details of everyday life, and frame them for the beautiful and momentary things they are, and to celebrate them."
As If It Were the Last Time takes place this Saturday at a secret location in Brooklyn. To find out where, just go to the Web site and sign up.