MIKEL ROUSE’S INTERPRETATION OF ONE BOY’S DAY SERVES AS A HISTORICAL PORTAL FROM WHICH TO VIEW OUR PRESENT MORE VIVIDLY, WHILE PROVIDING AN ARTISTIC STRUCTURE FOR CREATING NEW EVENTS, AND ENVISIONING ALTERNATIVE HISTORIES AND INTERPRETATIONS OF EVERYDAY LIFE.
THEIR PRESENT, OUR FUTURE
Based on the book One Boy’s Day, A Specimen Record of Behavior
by Roger G. Barker and Herbert F. Wright
One Boy’s Day is based on a sociological study from 1949 in which eight observers painstakingly documented every word and movement of Raymond Birch, a seven-year-old boy from rural Kansas.
Heralded as a sociological milestone, their 435-page report aimed to describe “how children actually behave in real-life situations” and offer insight into what makes an “ideal” American community.
Divided into seven parts and structured as scenes from a play, the study is a meticulous minute-by-minute account of Raymond’s every activity—from getting up and eating breakfast to playing with his friends, from studying English and participating in music class to eating dinner and going to bed.
An Immersive Multimedia Installation
Using the incredibly detailed account of Raymond’s day as a guide, composer and director Mikel Rouse together with artistic collaborators Jeff Sugg, Jim Findlay, Matthew Gandolfo, Chris Ericson and Hideaki Tsutsui create an immersive 13-hour multimedia installation and music concert with video, light, sound and architectural environments based on diagrams and drawings culled from the original text.
Throughout the day, audiences are encouraged to come and go as they please, watch the work as a staged performance or move inside the installation exploring the many worlds that make up One Boy’s Day. Teachers and students are at the heart of this performance, going about their classroom activities set to music and film.
We invite students, teachers and parents onstage to occupy models of Raymond’s home, school, playground and town courthouse.
At various scheduled times, participants receive instructions on how to inhabit these theatrical spaces and perform their own mini-dramas of everyday life (e.g. participating in a classroom lesson, playing with classmates, eating dinner, etc.).
As an update to the 1949 documenting techniques used by Roger Barker and his associates (writing board, watch, sound recorders), our team deploys robotic cameras and videographers to capture the activities of participants onstage in-real-time. This footage is combined together with pre-recorded images of contemporary life and projected onto two video cubes creating a profound tableau of humanity orchestrated by music and light.
Rouse will advance the live cinema techniques he previously used in works such as The End of Cinematics, Failing Kansas and The Demo.
Rouse composes a time accurate, durational, electronic score that shifts throughout the work creating a multitude of sonic textures and moods that define and comment on the different scenes onstage—Before School, After School, Evening at Home, for example.
The music is accompanied by recorded and synthesized readings of the text as well as live readings by select audience members. The text can be easily translated into many different languages through auto-translation allowing the work to be toured extensively worldwide.
Rouse’s monumental score of shifting rhythms and ambient electronics permeate the environment while a voice-over recites the entire 1949 study. The activities onstage are filmed in real-time and combined with students’ homemade videos of their own personal lives, creating a profound tableau of humanity orchestrated by music and light.
One Boy’s Day is a contemplative space for audiences to consider the past, reflect upon the present, and generate hope for our future.
At a time when definitions of community, privacy and citizenship are becoming increasingly contentious, One Boy’s Day is a deeply poetic work that puts children at the center and asks how their lives have changed over the past 70 years. The work opens up the intimate account of one boy from a largely homogenous and middle-class town to the multiplicities of a diverse present day America.
More than a scheduled artistic event, One Boy’s Day is an ongoing social and creative exploration. From activating connections between disparate organizations and social structures — from school systems and local music scenes to performing arts institutions and families, to magnifying the sometimes invisible work of teachers, administrators, and community leaders and amplifying the creativity of children and framing their contributions as meaningful artistic expression, One Boy’s Day offers perhaps the largest art laboratory for exploring and enacting Social Emotional Learning values and goals.