External Storage by Evan Webber

Before ‘what now?’, another question: what is going on now? A couple of days ago, the federal finance minister announced with mock-sadness that Ontario is officially ‘a have-not province’. Moments later, in a press conference with the provincial finance minister, reporters asked for his comments not on the impact, but on the symbolism of his federal counterpart’s statements. Maybe this could be called out-sourcing: the reporters (or more accurately, their editors) could once have been relied upon for such comments on symbolism, which is to say, potential conceptual impact; now these comments are the very subject of the inquiry. Is this the news? (I am not even talking about the U.S. election.)

There is a principle at work here and my guess is that it has to do with the fact that there is now more digital space than mental space, meaning that there is officially more information than there are human minds to hold it. One side-effect is that in this terrain, the ‘news’ is not the appearance of new subjects – which are beyond count already, and so, a poor investment – but the appearance of new modifiers: the massively unpredictable tectonics in the unlimited continents of information. The “have-not province” story is one of its cruder manifestations, but it reflects what, to me, is a serious problem about mental space, and overcrowding, and the selection of ideas and language, and history, and survival.

Because I am a human who wants to survive, and I want other humans to survive, and I think that this mutual survival requires some cultural survival too, I think the study of information tectonics is vitally important, but I wonder if the reporters are going about it wrong by emphasizing understanding over being. To be in space, particularly a potentially infinite, virtual space, one needs an equivalent kind of time. If I look for this time-making in performance, it’s not because it’s more common there than in other places, but because I think the possibility for direct transmission is greater when I’m with others; also, a room or a field of people listening and watching is an efficient distribution network for home-made time. A relaxed and disciplined body doing something real, with precision, can transmit this virtual time – for a moment. People seen to be engaged with the work of being themselves alone can actually accomplish this – even if just for a moment. That moment however, is all we need, if we can get access to it, if it can be retrieved. So I want to have access to that time – I want it to be available to myself and everyone else. I think this is why I find myself increasingly looking for, and engaging with, and thinking about stories, and particularly the kind of stories that are bigger on the inside than on the outside. Because these stories are memorable, they’re good containers for experience. They resist infinity.

In other words, it’s possible that the sense of time that comes from being relaxed enough, oneself enough, might be made more available (as memory) if it’s located in language, if it’s wrapped in a story. Which is about as new and revolutionary as breathing, but also, maybe, given the world, as necessary.

Evan Webber is a Toronto-based writer, performer, and producer.

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