April 27-29, 2018


SECURITY performance recap

Our friend and collaborator Kyle of Flatsitter created a beauty of a video recap of last weeks performance of SECURITY. Check it out…and check out Flatsitter's recent project to bring virtual reality equipment and training to artists in Oaxaca City, Mexico:

Posted by Torn Space Theater on Friday, May 4, 2018

Security is an exploration of readymade performance – a term first used by French artist Marcel Duchamp to describe the works of art he made from manufactured objects. Extending this concept, Security uses paid security guards rather than actors. The piece relies on elements of form, sound and light derived from the security sector. Traditional aspects of theatrical narrative are bent as both the audience and the players intersect in their normative roles of watcher and watched.

With common roots in both performance and the tech sector, Stegner and Napolski are approaching this piece as a form of data expression. Through statistics combed from scholarly articles and government databases, the gathered information will be abstracted (via digital communication protocols) into light and sound patterns projected onto a grid of 12 paid security guards. The formality of this approach will be mirrored in the formal presence and choreography of the paid security officers.

Also of note, in preparation for this piece, Stegner completed the first course in New York State security guard training. Called the “Eight Hour Pre-Assignment,” this course is an introduction to private security services and the first step to receiving an official security license.

Conceptual Development

What happens when one element of theater is replaced for another? How does it affect adjacent elements? How does it change the viewer? Those were the questions that led to the making of Security. With those questions fueling the exploration and development of the piece, these overriding themes began to emerge:

  • Substitution – using one labor resource (security officers) in place of another (actors)
  • Surveillance – the dichotomy of the watcher and the watched; perceptions of safety
  • Risk – security officers patrolling and protecting property on behalf of private industry
  • Privatization – whether it’s natural resources, government contractors, firefighters, healthcare, charter schools, or the growing trend of replacing police officers with private security, private companies are replacing public services at a growing rate, year after year, around the globe.

Structural Development

With the concept solidified, the next step would be to formalize the structure. Gathering statistics, imagery, and text as the source material, Stegner and Napolski used algorithmic tools to analyze, translate and create machine-readable files. With these files, they began to experiment – feeding the files into both audio and visual programs and arranging the output into the overall composition of the piece.

Knowing that security guards would be taking on the normative role of actors, and that these actors would not be available for rehearsals, the additional challenge of the project would be to construct the piece without the actors present. Using CAD modeling tools, the piece would be modeled and basic choreography explored on a laptop, outside of the theater.




Tim Stegner has worked with Torn Space since 2001, producing brand and marketing materials for the company. His onstage work has quietly appeared in some of the large-scale Torn Space performances at Silo City. In 2014’s Motion Picture, Stegner utilized the scale of the outdoor event by hiring a helicopter to appear as the finale’s final actor. Another use of this same venue was the “ballet” at the end of They Kill Things consisting of white Ford vans rather than dancers (although he really wanted monster trucks). His graphic design has appeared throughout many of the company’s performances, often being commissioned to invent symbolic systems to accompany and tie together the loose narratives that have become a signature of the company’s performances. His previous work with Torn Space includes Area, Stivale, Motion Picture, Trace, Storehouse, They Kill Things, Burden, and last year’s The Gathering.

Frank Napolski is a developer, designer and intermedia artist working in Buffalo, NY. His work has appeared in Torn Space productions Stivale, Storehouse, and They Kill Things. A graduate of University at Buffalo’s Media Study program, he is a former founding member of Kitchen Distribution, an independently run, underground arts and performance space. He currently works with Strange Allure, a collective creating immersive spaces primed for escapism.