Take Me I’m Yours: Beyond the Supermarket

Beyond the Supermarket is a show that features supermarket goods as actors. Using the publicly available smart phone app Take Me I’m Yours, a human actor interacts on stage with local products that are usually found in the cupboards and fridges of our kitchens.

Beyond the Supermarket was first performed at the Expanded Narrative symposium earlier this year and developed by Chris Speed, Duncan Shingleton and Lytton Smith: http://expandednarrative.org/symposium/ and introduced theatre goers to the secret lives and opinions of Marmite, sugar cubes and steel wool. This humorous and disturbing tale changed the way that audience members perceived how they might in future pick up products, and encourages them to listen to what they have to say.

The piece was performed twice and involved an actor using an iPhone extend a relationship with 8 physical objects on stage. The set up was simple, a troupe of actors has failed to turn up for a performance leaving the script writer with no show. Handed an iPhone the distraught professor turns to the objects for help. What follows is a shared audience / actor experience in which neither are entirely sure what the objects have in mind as the script unfolds revealing the personalities of the objects.

The iPhone was connected to a data projector to display the live messages that are spoken back to the actor, and allows the audience to share in the emergence of a meta-narrative.

Above: Our actor Chris Roberts scans fellow actors (objects) and considers how to respond to their thoughts as the performance unfolds.

A snippet of the performance is here:

 

Background

Take Me I’m Yours is a third generation Internet of Things (IoT) artwork that evokes ‘actions’.

1st Generation – Read Only

The first generation of IoT technologies simply recall immaterial data that is associated with an artefact when it is scanned. Barcode scanners in supermarket checkouts, or near-field scanners used to check passports at airports, devices ‘read’ tags and codes and recall data upon that item from a networked database.

2nd Generation – Read and Write

Second generation IoT technologies allow for the writing back of data on to a database via a tag. Systems such as www.talesofthings.com or www.stickybits.com allow consumers and owners of artefacts to ‘write’ information back to a tag allowing others to recall and further comment.

3rd Generation – Read, Write and Act

A third generation proposed by the artist and designers of Take Me I’m Yours involves not only the reading and writing of/to tags, but the passage of instructions and actions through objects to facilitate their movement through space/place. The tendency for the first two generations  of IoT is that objects are not shared in the actual world – only the immaterial data that they are associated with.

Take Me I’m Yours is an iPhone app that allows users to read a traditional barcode that is associated with everyday consumer items. Upon scanning a code the user is prompted with an action to do something with the artefact: “Give me to your neighbour”, or “Take me to work with you”.

Through actions that correspond with ‘real world’ contexts ‘Take Me I’m Yours’ encourages the movement of things through people, places and circumstances to provoke new histories and question the perceived function and value of artefacts. When the Cornflakes packet is browsed at home by a family and it says “Turn me inside out and design your own packet”, the artefact is given a voice that provokes a self-transformative action.

Take Me I’m Yours was launched at DIS2012 and also presented at Ubicomp2012 as a demonstration of the technology.

You can watch humans being ordered around by things on these two YouTube clips:

http://www.chrisspeed.net/?p=929

http://www.chrisspeed.net/?p=954

 

Try it out 

The Take Me I’m Your app (tmiy in the app store) allows you apply you own stories and scripts to your own objects with bar codes or try out other peoples.

It’s easy to make you’re own. Simply download the app and…

1. Click the menu button at the top/left of the screen

2. It is easier and often more effective to add lines for you play to particular objects, so the first thing I do is to pick your cast from your cupboard.

3. Click View Products, Add as many cast members as you need by following the on screen instructions.

4. Then back to the Menu

5. Choose My Plays, then Create.

6. Choose a title for your play, it will then appear in the list of Play I’ve Created

7. Click your play

8. Now you are able to start adding lines – hit Add to add the first line.

9. Follow the on screen instructions and fill in the relevant fields. I often have the script loaded into another text application on my iPhone such as Evernote and then copy and paste relevant lines to the tmiy app. You can assign specific lines to particular products or you can choose to make it generic to any object.

I have made two plays from highlights from the Frost / Nixon interview. The first requires a 500g box of Kelloggs Cornflakes as Frost, and a bag of 240 Tetley Tea bags.

Plus I have made the same script that is unassigned to objects – you just have to pick your own characters and remember to swap them in the right order!

Have fun.

 

Sample of script:  Beyond the Supermarket

written by Lytton Smith, Nijah Cunningham, J.R. Fenn, Jamie Popowich, Abby Rosebrock, and Angela Szczepaniak.

Marm.              Love me or hate me. Love me love me love me hate me hate me hate me. Love me hate me.

Gun.                Ha. That’s quite funny. Because people either love or hate Marmite. Yes. Okay, I get it, the joke’s on me. Okay, okay. Who’s responsible for this? Is it my Intro to Objectification students? You’ve all failed the course. Laugh about that now.

Marm.              My father was German. He bottled brewer’s yeast and ate it. But my name is French, you know, for earthenware pot.

            Gunderman is tickled that he gets responses from the objects. He keeps scanning.

Marm.              A man took me off the shelf 1 day and put me on toast.

Marm.              Always toast. Toast again. No one drinks me anymore.

Gun.                That is quite clever, though. (To the audience) Isn’t that ingenious? It’s a neat little demonstration, really, of the ways-

Marm.              Make a nice hot drink outta me.

Gun.                Anyone have a kettle handy? Some boiling water?

Marm.              Give me to someone to eat, served on an icecube of white sugar.

Gunderman looks mischievous; he is something of a bully. He gets a sugar cube out of the pack, uses his keys to spread marmite on the sugar, tries to get audience members to eat.

Sugar              Pretend I’m cocaine.

Gun.                I think that might get me fired. I’d have to check with my Union rep.

Sugar              Recent credits include the role of cocaine in numerous student films.

Sugar              As set dressing in The Nutcracker I felt ashamed by the Mouse King’s theft of sugarplums and marzipan from little ones at his rock bottom.

Gun.                Ooh, a celebrity. Well, at least we’ve finally got an actor in the house. Don’t tell me they’ve gotten lost – or stuck in the revolving doors! You know, we’ve got an English lecturer who once got stuck in the revolving doors? You can’t push them, see; they tell you that, in big letters on them: Don’t Touch! But he touched them, and they stopped revolving. And the more he pushed, the more they wouldn’t move. Relatively speaking.

Sugar              Do you know how important I am to French Fry recipes?

Gun.                Well listen to her. Who knew sugar was so self-aggrandizing?

Sugar              Go ahead, call me Sugar in the workplace.

Gun.                Sugar with a political bent. I like it.

Sugar              Make tea for someone with me.

Gun.                Nope, still no boiling water. Or actors.

Sugar              Put me on someone’s collar as if they’ve got terrible dandruff

Gun.                I might have been able to pull that one of if you hadn’t just told everyone the plan out loud.

Sugar              When you see me, think of Baltimore, and call someone you know from there.

Gun.                A reference to The Wire! Very intertextual. How droll. Well, why not – we’ve time to kill, haven’t we

Gunderman gets out his phone, makes a call.

Gun.                Emily? Hey, Emily-

Well, yes, ah, okay, it is half-three in the morning in L.A.-

No, no, nothing’s wrong. It’s just that this box of sugar told me to call someone from Baltimore.

Yes – a box of sugar. It said to call someone from Baltimore.

Well I know you’re living in L.A. but you’re from Baltimore, right? Hello? Emily?

The call drops; we hear beeps. Gunderman eats a sugar cube, almost as if hoping no-one will notice.

Sugar              As you eat me out of the box allude to the claptrap about my causing cancer.

Gun.                Nice. Now I feel really good.

 

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