There’s also the chilly reassurance of knowing that as bad as things are, they could be much, much worse. “KlaxAlterian Sequester,” a play for your smartphone by Ben Beckley and Asa Wember, imagines a future in which alien life-forms arrive on Earth sometime later this year and promptly enslave humanity. For reasons the extremely fuzzy premise can’t explain, you, a human, have been sent back from 2083 to 2020, when the KlaxAlterians made first contact, to listen in on their early communications.
“We can only break their hold on us if they understand who they think we are,” your bearded liaison (Beckley) will tell you in a prerecorded video sequence.
The hourlong piece, which you are asked to perform alone in your home, has you look through alien eyes (assuming aliens have eyes) at what it is to be human. After the video, an audio sequence asks you to take an inventory of the human body. The inventory sounds a lot like a thesaurus run wild. “Rostral orifices at the anterior center of its neck orb”? Those would be your ears. “Gelatinous spheroids enveloped in folds of skin”? Your windows to the soul. Subsequent audio files then move you from bedroom to bathroom to kitchen and back, exploring alimentation, purgation and other mundane aspects of the day-to-day.
The piece ends in an irritating indeterminacy, and it’s doubtful that these audio tracks would help aliens understand humanity, or the inverse. Will the six minutes I spent considering the mechanics of my bathroom free us from our alien shackles? Unlikely. As in “Human Resources,” connection falters.
“KlaxAlterian Sequester” stands on firmer and more humane ground when it makes the familiar strange, asking us to think deeply about what we often take for granted — the facts of the human body and its lived environment. I didn’t think that after this many months indoors my tiny apartment could ever seem foreign. But for that hour it did. Even the simple act of sipping a glass of water felt weird and charged.
There’s a bit more to “KlaxAlterian Sequester” — interstitial sound files to listen to as you move from room to room. Those sequences suggest something awfully bleak. In this dark future world, humanity barely survives. But hold music is still going strong.
Through Oct. 25; woollymammoth.net
Available online at klaxalteria.com