Everything (Wikipedia)

Heman Chong

Presented by — Amanda Wilkinson

Edition 2/3 (out of Edition of 3 + 1 AP)

Duration: Variable

Past presentations

  1. "Wikiclicki", National Gallery Singapore
  2. "Cut Down The Middle", Galerias Municipais de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
  3. "Ifs, Ands, or Buts", Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China (Solo show)
The artist Heman Chong standing in a gallery space reading from a smart phone - performing Everything (Wikipedia)

Everything (Wikipedia) is a performance involving a single individual reciting content from a series of random articles from the online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia. This is facilitated via an electronic mobile device capable of accessing the servers of Wikipedia in real time. Accessing Wikipedia in real time is crucial to the performance as the content is constantly evolving.

Beginning with the article of the day on Wikipedia, the reader reads that article, without any emotion, and moves onto the next article, which is a link that he or she can choose from within this page. He/she/they would repeat this action, over and over, until the pre-defined hours of the performance has ended. This is a futile attempt to vocalise a representation of the entirety of human knowledge. The hyperlinks across a multitude of entries written by the everyday person eventually spirals into the depths of irrelevance from the original daily suggested article.'

In Everything (Wikipedia), artist Heman Chong proposes a futile attempt to vocalise a representation of the entirety of human knowledge through a performance of Wikipedia entries. Recited by a single individual, the performance begins with the Wikipedia page of the day and follows the website's links as a means to navigate the encyclopaedic resource. Using an electronic mobile device to access the servers of Wikipedia in real time, the performer advances across a multitude of hyperlink entries, deciding on the choice of links to follow. This action is repeated until the pre-defined hours of the performance has ended. The performance of text is experienced spatially (while in the vicinity of the performer) and durationally (the amount of time spent experiencing the artwork, with content received based on the juncture that one encounters the performer), resulting in new capacities for the reception of information.

In making the visitor's experience of Wikipedia contingent on the performer's chance encounter with information presented on the online encyclopedia, the artist acknowledges the exploratory and propositional nature of such digital infrastructures. Moving between hyperlinks and descending into rabbit holes (in the manner of Lewis Carroll's Alice), information consumption quickly turns into excess. Recalling the conditions of an information age, Everything (Wikipedia) reckons with information presented and consumed in seeming infinitude. How does the boundlessness of virtual interfaces measure against the human limits of knowledge inquiry?


Conditions of Production

There are three configurations to this performance. The host institution is free to choose whichever configuration is more contextually appropriate for the exhibition it is staging. The idea of the configurations is to allow for this work to be performed in as many diverse contexts as possible.

Designate the duration of the performance. The host institution is free to define the duration of the performance but this duration must not exceed an hour. Please understand that there are physical limits to one’s abilities to read aloud, so the performer must be given adequate rest after an hour of performing with no less than an hour’s rest. An ideal plan is to hire two performers, and to provide hourly shifts for them. Performer A will perform for an hour, followed by performer B. In this way, the performers have an hour of rest in between their shifts to rest. Ideally, they should not perform for more than 4 hours each day. Please understand that it is absolutely exhausted to speak aloud continuously. Be human.

Secure an electronic mobile device (such an iPhone) with the capabilities of accessing Wikipedia online. The mobile device must be equipped with a SIM card that has access to the internet, or be able to connect to the local WIFI within the building. This access needs to be continuous to facilitate hyperlinking from one page to another.

Search for two (or more) performers that would become the reciters. The host institution can achieve this with an open call on social media for performers who are trained in theatre or for someone with experience with such performances, maybe a young visual artist, for example, Musicians can also be considered. In my past experience, theatre actors are the most suitable performers.

Meet the performers and interview them and speak to them about the performance to see if they are suitable for performing the work. They are required to be responsible individuals who will turn up to perform. There is a level of professionalism necessary to produce a successful rendering of this performance. Choose them based on the timbre of their voice. They should possess a certain ‘grain of the voice’ (as defined by Roland Barthes) where their voices must have a certain beauty in tone. You can tell by making them read from Wikipedia. Avoid performer with high pitched voices. Avoid performers who are not serious about performing.

Begin to instruct the performers. Communicate to them that this is not an emotive performance, and that they should remove any emotions from the verbalisation. They should work towards a voice that is clear, affirmative and read the text as facts, rather as part of a narrative.

The performance begins with the ‘Article of the Day’, which changes daily on the homepage of Wikipedia. After completing the reading of this entire page, the performer will choose a link from within this article to jump to, and to begin reading from the second article. This action of hyperlinking from one article to the next is the primary basis of the performance and forms an ever-evolving script that reflects on all of human existence via Wikipedia.

The Configurations

  • Search for a suitable space within the institution for the performance. The work should be located within a room without other works within the space.

    Access to this room should be denied to the audience. The performer and the performance takes up the entire room. The body of the performer, the mobile device, the microphone and the sound amplification devices should be the only objects in the space.

    Secure a portable electronic voice amplifier consisting of a wireless microphone, a transmitter to transmit the signal, and a speaker. The level of the sound must not be overwhelming loud. It should be an adequate level so that the performer’s voice is clearly heard within the space without straining one’s ears.

    It is possible their voice is transmitted into an existing public announcement (PA) system.

    The performer is instructed to read from the mobile device while walking around a space. This mobility is important for the performance as it animates the figure of the performer.

    The performer can also choose to rest at certain points in the performance. The resting position should not take up more than 10% of the entire duration.

    The performer shall have access to plenty of drinking water. The performer is allowed to visit the restroom whenever they want.

  • This configuration involves the performer and their acoustic voice. This configuration is more suitable for inclusion within group shows or in outdoor areas where voice amplification devices are not accessible.

    The performer should not strain their voice in this configuration. They must not attempt to raise their voice to project the work. They should speak in a tone that is similar to speaking to a friend who is standing next to them. It is important that the voice produces a sense of intimacy in this configuration.

    The performer is instructed to read from the mobile device while walking around a space. This mobility is important for the performance as it animates the figure of the performer.

    The performer can also choose to rest at certain points in the performance. The resting position should not take up more than 10% of the entire duration.

    The performer shall have access to plenty of drinking water. The performer is allowed to visit the restroom whenever they want.

  • This configuration of this work deals with the disembodied voice. In this configuration, the performer is out of sight, and their voice is amplified over an existing public announcement system.

    This configuration is similar to radio, or a podcast.

    The performer sits, out of sight and reads into a microphone.

    This reading should not be recorded via any analogue or digital means. Nor should be played back in any form. It is important that it is always produced live, in order to keep the work alive.

    The performer shall have access to plenty of drinking water. The performer is allowed to visit the restroom whenever they want.

Collectables

  • The licence to restage the Performance: Edition of 3 + 1 A/P
  • Instructions and specification for restaging the Performance as above
  • Documentation: image files provided on a memory stick/video file provided on a memory stick, all provided to facilitate restaging
  • Note: mobile phone and sound amplification to be provided by purchased at point of re-staging.