AS WE WAIT in the middle of everything I keep thinking about how “later” has taken on new importance. It has been elevated from that place to which we’d relegate anything that did not really concern us to a place where we’ll do everything. I’ve been having a series of online chats with people where we make plans for a “later date”, when we are able to go outside again. I’ve been fantasizing about these later dates. Being in the same space as other people. Reaching out and touching. Shared surfaces. Breathing, talking, anything really. It is a performance in two parts. In the first, we chat and imagine together our first meeting. Where will we go, what will we do, what will we say? This future plan gets saved as a sort of script. One day, when we are allowed out again, they’ll receive a request to meet and we’ll enact this script. This will be part two.
We are planning with each other while we are negotiating with the future. What season will it be? Will we be able to embrace? Will that place still exist? We talk about the first days when frantic decisions were being made, and each of our personal boundaries closing in as we began to feel unsafe with one another. We acknowledge the discomfort of trying to find a stable place in a situation we refuse to accept as normal. We make extremely specific plans, subject to change.
Our conversation is the opposite of a Zoom grid. It is one-to-one, slow, text-only. I call this piece a performance, but with the camera off, it feels like the first non-performance I have experienced in weeks. The interaction is about waiting instead of streaming. And in this lack of bandwidth, we are left space to imagine. The person on the other end, whose presence we are only certain of at brief moments when messages pop onscreen. The later with this person when we will meet in highest fidelity. The days and months that will unfold after this exchange.
This was created in April 2020. The performance is about two distinct positions, then and later. I have chosen not to add to this text from this current in between vantage point. I will continue to wait for the later date when this piece can be completed.
Later Date by Lauren McCarthy on Vimeo.
A screen reader accessible version of this content is available at http://laterdate.net/plans. [Image description: 1. Screenshot of laterdate.net website, gray background, black text in white box. 2. Screenshot from later date conversation. Last phrase reads, I'm ok, everything feels very surreal. Is it really you?]
Lauren Lee McCarthy is an L.A.–based artist examining social relationships in the midst of surveillance, automation, and algorithmic living. She is an Associate Professor at UCLA Design Media Arts, the creator of p5.js, and Co-Director of the Processing Foundation.