Last year, 34% of young people voted YouTuber their top career choice. See-Through, created and performed by Claire Gaydon, is a smart, well-crafted, funny solo show, examining the costs of living your life in the public eye.
Gaydon spends most of the performance with her back to us, recording live YouTube videos on her webcam that appear on the projector screen. Gaydon has a knack for telling a story through the lightest of touches, trusting her audience to fill in the blanks. Through a series of well-curated google searches, she fills in the audience on famous YouTubers and their followings and sources tips for how to start her own channel.
At first, Gaydon’s project to set herself up as a YouTuber seems fun. We see videos of her designing a logo, working out a cheesy jingle and getting photos done. Building her personal brand: Claire Gaydon. She involves the audience to help her do challenges and makes a video with her mum to celebrate reaching 100 followers. Things start subtly to unravel, as the YouTuber ‘Claire Gaydon’ makes increasingly confessional videos in order to amass more views and subscribers. The harmless buzz of validation becomes an increasingly traumatic addiction. Texts from Claire’s mum start to appear in the corner of the screen (although they’re so small on the big screen they can be easily missed) – ‘please call me, we need to talk’.
YouTube is the contemporary confessional and See-Through skewers the genre of video that demands such self-exposure. Yet it is striking how many of the ethical questions she raises can be applied to a particular kind of autobiographical performance too. At the peak of the narrative arc of the show, Gaydon delivers a very personal confession in the frame of a YouTube video. She says the video got 1000 views, then she took it down. It doesn’t matter whether or not she actually uploaded it to YouTube, because she told us, the audience. Isn’t it a bit weird to have a genre of entertainment that depends upon performers exposing intimate parts of themselves to complete strangers?
When I saw Cock, Cock…Who’s There? I found myself distracted by worrying about the performer Samira Elagoz’s safety in the situations she engineered to generate material for her show about her rape. I don’t want to take anything away from her choices and her creative process. But, having seen a lot of work this fringe about sexual assault, I am concerned about the ethics of a genre that encourages the sharing of traumatic experience to generate some kind of catharsis or experience of authenticity for an audience. For me, See-Through deftly articulates the need for self-care and boundaries as any kind of performer working autobiographically, from performance art to YouTube.
I was curious whether Gaydon actually made these YouTube videos, so after the show I searched for her channel and all I found was a promo video for the show. She might have made the videos and deleted them. She might just have mocked up the graphics on photoshop. As much as I might be curious to find out, that indeterminacy is the show’s strength, questioning and mocking the very notion of authenticity in which vloggers trade. Peggy Shaw has said of autobiographical performance, ‘We can bathe ourselves in the truth, we can save ourselves by fiction’, which seems an apt description of See-Through. In our curation of our personal brands, we all present versions of ourselves.
See-Through is on until 26 August 2018 at Summerhall. Click here for more details.