Remote Moscow is a performance format, produced in the genre of “promenade performance”, the so-called “audio promenade”.
Remote Moscow combines the elements of performance, guided tours, computer games and quests. There are no chairs to sit in so you will take full part in all of the action. You will put on headphones and take off for a fascinating adventure in the streets of Moscow by following the voice in your headphones (the kind familiar from GPS navigators or airport announcements). Together with your computerised interlocutor you will explore the city in stereo format. You will constantly be on the move because the events take place in real time, the city streets provide the set design, the people passing by become actors, and the surrounding reality provides props.
Everyone participating in “Remote X” met at a cemetery. We were given headphones and told thats all we will have for a guide. A synthetic voice in our headphones directed the movements we made. As we made our way to new locations, it was clear we were a living performance listening to our computer-like director. The voice gives directions and others from our group were getting their own directions, splitting us up into smaller and smaller groups, but the process is not so straightforward. The journey is meant to force each of us to explore our own ideas of society, individuality and acceptability while exploring a city.
Somehow as the groups got smaller the computer-like directors voice started to sound ever more human as we progressed, while in the eyes of passerby’s our remotely controlled group I am sure looked like its own entity.
At first, the Remote Moscow tour is guided by a slightly apologetic and metallic female voice who introduces herself as Milena and she says, “I will try to be your friend”. Milena has no body and is aware her voice sounds, in her own words, “a bit weird.” I noticed Milena had a penchant for deep philosophical disquisitions when she proclaimed, “Everybody is the same in front of death,” while guiding our group across the cemetery. She then asked us to pick a grave and observe it carefully. She guided the group through a series of reflections, asking questions about the age of the deceased, our age in relation to our, and to think about that personas physical appearance.
After giving us time to think about life, Milena asks us to leave the cemetery and start our journey.
In the hour and a half to follow, Milena takes the group on a physical and spiritual journey across the city. Each of us is alone in the crowd, but through Milena we become a unit—or at least that is what she says.
At times she leaves us free to choose our next move: go left or go right, walk up the metro escalator or wait for it to carry you to the top. She divides us into smaller groups and sends us on our separate ways.
As we go down the metro escalator, we turn into this mini-flash mob when Milena tells us to pretend we are ballerinas and were given a few ballet positions. Needless to say, people around us look confused.
Milena forces us to explore the awkward and the uncomfortable moments when we are pushed to stare people in the eyes or strand with our arms above our head for an extended amount of time.
When we arrive at the Vysokopetrovsky Monastery, Milena morphs into Yuri, a male voice with a vaguely misogynistic attitude. “Milena told me that sometimes she is jealous of your body because without one she can’t wear shoes,” he says. We slowly descend the stairs into the monastery’s refectory.
The walls are covered with beautiful frescoes. Yuri tells us to help ourselves to the small plates with Russian pies and cups of the fruit drink kompot that are neatly aligned on the tables.
Some of us were told to sit and enjoy the small plates and others must have been told to bow and then they left, without us. Making our group even smaller.
Eventually we were told to leave as well.
Back on the streets of Moscow, we venture into unexpected corners and back alleys, all the way into a basketball court where we found the others that had chosen left when we chose right.
It looked like Yuri or maybe Milena had divided them in teams and coordinated an impromptu basketball game.
We were told to keep going so we left them to their own path. We ended up in the park taking in our surrounding while standing still allowing random passerby to walk around us, all of a sudden Yuri sends us on a foot race creating what looking like a herd of people not in running clothes with colorful headphones randomly racing for no reason.
After the park we found ourselves walking down in the center of the city, we were invited to sing a Russian song out loud, pull out anything from our pockets or bags and hold it up like a sign as we “protest”, and booth through pretend binoculars. It’s not easy to trust this metallic voice, but we all did it.
Later, as we stand outside the department store TsUM, Yuri instructed to start a party on the square knowing we are the only ones who can hear the music in our headphones.
Then we were told to go inside of TsUM (I have a feeling the store employees must be used to this because they did not seem alarmed).
The tour ends on the rooftop of TsUM. An “I Love Moscow” sign painted on the next building. Yuri bids us farewell as we are encircled by a cloud of smoke.
This was a cool way to explore parts of Moscow.