When our bodies are consumed by data, the body-as-data forms. This can be said to be a digital alter-ego of the person standing in front of the machine, that we all have.
Using an alter-ego within this project was a method we explored as a way of harnessing and critiquing the body as data. The alter-ego was born from an in-between space (at borders and in digital spaces), and so we explored the idea of in-between as a freeing concept. Being between multiple things and becoming multiple things.
Once we had identified that Rasselas was the in-between (Ethiopia and Britain, softness and resistance, knowledge and awareness, digital and physical), we worked on embodying this alter-ego, focusing on different states:
- arrival & presence
- Flowing water
- Carrying the border
Rasselas got his name from Samuel Johnson's Prince of Abissinia. Tom chose this name as it resonated with the alter-ego's ability to escape, to shift between spaces, and as a figure of emancipation. The idea that Rasselas is a leader and a legacy drove the name, rather than any reference to the book itself.
Rasselas developed from a manifestation of Tom's journey as a refugee but also he was created through the passing of hundreds of thousands of people through digital borders who are captured into digital spaces. He is not a character but an extension of Tom's identity that is able to transverse his boundaries.
After having embodied Rasselas during Uninvited, Tom specified that he needed Rasselas. Tom spoke candidly about his experience of feeling like a second-class citizen, and that without his alter-ego, he would not feel worthy of commanding these spaces for performance in the way that he did.
Rasselas was used so that Tom can present parts of his story and his culture that he feels he cannot in his everyday life experience. The framing of Rasselas meant that this alter-ego has become a tool rather than a mask.
Alter-egos allow the performer to step outside of their real-life identity, they often act as an extension of the self or an exaggeration, and can act as a liberating force for the real-life individual. We used the alter-ego in this instance to offer a critique on identificatory limits. Creating Rasselas meant that Tom felt like he could enter these spaces and his embodiment could thrive. He does not necessarily perform the alter-ego but he uses him.