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Love Letters is an on-going performance project, conceived by live art practitioner and applied researcher Yiota Demetriou that combines aesthetics of live art, theatre, sound art/installation and ubiquitous computing.

It involves sharing private memories, exhibiting public histories, and uses audience participation and the act of storytelling. The original form of the piece invited audience members to write anonymous love letters to a significant other using the four types of Greek love: Agape, Eros, Filia, Storge.

In turn, the audience selected and read aloud other audiences’ love letters (from the bank of letters collected from each performance); they inscribed the name of the sender and the addressee on the performer’s dress and/or body and furthermore pinned the narrated letter onto the dress.

The work was initially performed at the Performance and Live Art Platform (2012) in Cyprus as a performance happening.

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Since then, it has taken the shape of a performance lecture, a sound installation and a durational, processed-based performance installation. The performance’s shape may have shifted several times, however, the work’s main content – which through every performance emerges from the very act of participation, engagement and interaction of the audience – remains unchanged.

This on-going piece has been performed more than five times in different countries across the EU and at renowned performance festivals, conferences and venues such as: Museum of Broken Relationships (Zagreb, Croatia), MIX 2017Performing Documents (2012), Performance and Live Art Platform (2012, 2014), Tempting Failure (2013, 2014), Latitude (2015), and iDocs (2016).

From being re-performed, the current love letters collection holds more than 200 audience letters. In each performance, more love letters are generated and added to the collection and past audiences’ letters are revisited and reactivated.

Photos by Petros Antoniou

The dress worn in every performance is the same. It is ‘stained’ with the past and present audiences’ contributions, playing with the notions of presence and absence. As described the audience would note the name of the sender and the addressee on the garment and or the performer’s body.

Additionally, the dress also contains ‘memo’-type messages that people left on it, for others to see and perhaps to not see. Thus, the dress is a crucial component of the performance. It becomes part of the audience member’s recollections, not only as given traces of past written and narrative acts but also as an in-between, a mediator, of what was said and what was lost.

It most importantly becomes a vessel that embodies these peoples’ intimate stories. In this sense, the dress, a non-human actor that witnesses the different tellings shares a different type of intimacy with each and every audience member that has interacted with it.

It is a technology that is physically embedded with their memories – by having the audience pin the letters to it – and simultaneously works as a platform to exhibit these different candid stories and experiences.

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Performance and Live Art Platform Cyprus 2013, (Point Centre for Contemporary Arts, Nicosia), Photo by Despoina Nikolaou.

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Performance and Live Art Platform Cyprus 2013,(Point Centre for Contemporary Arts, Nicosia), Photo by Petros Mina.

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Performance and Live Art Platform Cyprus 2013,(Point Centre for Contemporary Arts, Nicosia), Photo by Petros Mina.

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Tempting Failure 2013, (The Island, Bristol), Photo by Andy Machals

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Tempting Failure 2013, (The Island, Bristol), Photo by Andy Machals

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Tempting Failure 2013, (The Island, Bristol), Photo by Andy Machals

University of Bristol, Wickham Theatre, 2014
University of Bristol, Wickham Theatre, 2014
Love Letters, performed at Latitude as part of Tempting Failure 2015, photograph by MM
Latitude as part of Tempting Failure 2015, photograph by MM
Love Letters, performed at Latitude as part of Tempting Failure 2015, photograph by MM
Latitude as part of Tempting Failure 2015, photograph by MM

 

 

Love Letters, performed at Latitude as part of Tempting Failure 2015, photograph by MM
Latitude as part of Tempting Failure 2015, photograph by MM
i-Docs 2016, Watershed, Photo by Yiota Demetriou
i-Docs 2016, Watershed, Photo by Yiota Demetriou

In collaboration with Electronics/Signals Engineer Odysseas Pappas and Composer/Sonic Artist Stathis Kampylis, the Love Letters dress is being redeveloped into a freestanding interactive sound installation, which is augmented with recordings of the letters from the existing collection, enabling recordings and narratives.

Audience members are invited to follow the initial process of writing a letter and to engage with the dress and the performer by reading another letter from the collection and pinning it onto the dress. The audience’s engagement with the dress triggers a reaction where the dress narrates another story from the love letters collection.

In this way, the dress becomes a storytelling object and facilitates a two-way exchange of personal testimony: the garment becomes a listener/witness to the story being told by the audience member, but it also becomes the storyteller. Simultaneously, this shift of roles also happens to the audience members.

The audiences’ engagement in the work was active even before augmenting technologies onto the dress, as the content was ‘user-generated’. However, by technologizing the performance beyond the initial process, the approach is taken further in actively involving them in the conceptual, ‘dramaturgical’ and developmental structure behind our work.

Video from past crowdfunding campaign

Love Letters is supported by:

  • Bath Spa University (Making Books research centre)
  • Pervasive Media Studio
  • Centrespace Gallery (Bristol)
  • The Island (Bristol)
  • Museum of Broken Relationships (Croatia)