Interview with Moriah Katz,
reporter with Santa Cruz newspaper - City on A Hill Press
1. How does Embedded deal with complex understandings of identity (of presentation to the external world, but also identity as is informed by race, politics, and/or gender)?
Embedded essentially seeks to invoke a revolt against all identities that trap/confine us. It is an introspection on notions of identity and image, reality and perception, a conflict between who we are and what we present/project of ourselves and that includes the way we chose to present ourselves (or be identified as), the identities that we put on because thats what is expected of us societally, and the identities that are imposed upon us systematically and race, color, politics, gender, nationality are all a part of all of that.
In Embedded the protagonist is an outcast, a wierdo, a nerd, someone who is societally rejected. In his attempt to seek connection/acceptance he begins to build/program a virtual social media identity of himself and via him starts making youtube video's inorder to connect with the virtual audience and seeks that acceptance/validation/belongingness via this virtual mask in the virtual world. The two identities then begin to talk to each other. This premise cracks open the opportunity for the audience to follow and simultaneously examine the journey of how one builds identity in the first place, which consequently leads to - on a meta level - questions like: How does one define their identity? where does one derive it from? can identity become an entrapment/a confining/ an act of separating one's self from another? How can "I am __" exist without defining that which "I am not __". So then, how can Identity and inclusion exist simultaneously? What is identity anyways - Something that one is born with? Something one cultivates? A chosen persona? A defining of one's territory? An acquiring of a mask? or is there something deeper that we can all collectively identify and connect with on a human level.
2. How does technology intersect with ideas of identity in the modern day? Historically?
Most of our interactions today happen via a digital screen, a digital wall. A wall that separates us from having a real connection not only with one another but also with ourselves. While a madman somewhere is wanting to build a wall, this is a wall on which we are constantly building versions of ourselves that we want the world to see us as, versions of ourselves that are more and more distant from whom we really are and these virtual identities are being virtually validated and the walls being virtually re-inforced. There is also this imposed underlying demand to constantly market and position ourselves, as something or someone, to fit into a prescribed category, wether its gender identity, religious beliefs , national identity or sexuality. Are you a he or a she? are you a hindu or a muslim? Christian or Jew? Indian or American?. Anything that exists beyond this world of binaries is a threat and is rejected. These categories then get reinforced by fear, fear that the other group will destroy your identity if you don't protect/defend/retaliate. A fear that keeps us from actually reaching out and engaging with each other beyond the confinements of our acquired masks. And digital technology foundationaly works in Binaries. In 0's and 1's. So I feel like there is an inherent problem there. There are highly sophisticated Algorithms constantly at work trying to categorize every click, every choice, every post you like so that it can slot, categorize, predict and ultimately influence your behaviour. I believe that there is great mystery in human beings and human behavior. In the unpredictability resides the beauty of it and is what makes us humans. I think that all this historically stems from a consumerist and capitalist mindset. It is easier to control individuals that identify with and can be divided in categories. I feel like the consumerist and capitalist society that we live in plays a trick on us by taking our need for real connection and inclusion and misdirecting this need so that we begin to look for that sense of connection and belonging in either hollow materialism or prescriptive identity brands - political brands, religious brands, national brands, cast brands, phone brands, laptop brands etc, instead of deriving that self worth out of out of ethical, moral and human values and seeking that connection and belonging in real human relationships, in each other, with each other - a connection that we are so desperately seeking - we begin to derive our self worth and status based on devoted affiliation to one of these prescriptive identity brands and in a more corporate set up that would be: the amount of money we make, the step of that vertical ladder we stand on, the position of power we hold. The end result of such a system is a world with a whole lot of economically ambitious, career driven, individualistic, self focused, self centered, self consumed, territorial individuals with no real sense of shared belonging with another person, space, value set or community. It is no surprise that it is becoming increasingly difficult and uncomfortable for us to share real time, space and resources with other humans and increasingly comfortable to spend hours and hours of virtual time in digital space.
3. Where did the idea come from to write this play? Did it come about from a specific "aha" moment or concrete occurrence?
I wore a stage wig and some fake teeth and came up with a character that I really enjoyed playing, he lived in a very performative world, so I thought wouldn't it be fun to see him make ridiculous and outrageous youtube videos. As I went deeper into that exploration I became interested in knowing who he would be when he is not performing, when the camera is off, when he is offline and disconnected from his virtual audience. And that was the crack from which the light entered. That lead to the whole multimedia integration and interaction with ones own self on a video. Also, I live outside a culture that I was raised in. So maybe that factors in somewhere but ultimately for this show the medium (multimedia) is most definitely a big part of the message.
4. How does your understanding of your own identity come through in Embedded's production?
As a brown skinned, East Indian, Mumbai born artist who now works in the United States as a Non-Resident Alien - as described on my Visa and identity card - what is my identity in this place? what do these labels even mean? How do they even matter? But they do, they matter, definitely at immigrations. Of lately I have had this almost revolting feeling against anything and everything that tries to confine, define, label or #tag me. I feel exhausted by the demand to constantly define myself as "I am this" or " I am that", I just want to be. Just "I am", and nothing beyond the "I am", No tag line attached.