Promotional Art for the PETTYCASH production GRINDR / a love story by Oisín McKenna.
"As a gay today you don't know who else is gay oftentimes. And so it's hard to figure it out, so I've always kind of wanted a way to find other guys".
This quote is from an interview with Joel Simkhai, co-founder of the smartphone application GRINDR, who seemingly set out to simplify the means of interaction in the gay community. Spoken word artist Oisín McKenna explores how the invention has made communication between individuals worse rather than better.
Described as a "geosocial" networking device, this application lists other users in order of their proximity. McKenna describes his own experience with it: "I found myself in a position where I was forming these intense attachments to people over the internet based on information on their profiles, thinking that that was the normal way to conduct myself. I eventually thought: this is stupid".
McKenna wasn't alone as a lot of his peers admitted that they could relate to forming such attachments. With the advent of social media in the past decade, enough time has passed that it could have played a role during the entirety of a young twenty something's sexual and adult life.
"It's about communication through technology versus communication in real life", he tells me of his new play, GRINDR / a love story, "and how technology begins to mediate those real life communications and impairs them".
McKenna rolls words speedily and intelligently as he describes the character of the piece, Johnny. "Parts of him are a caricature of myself", he tells me. "He's forming these really intense attachments to people over the internet but is failing in the real world with people he actually knows. It's really funny but also secretly kind of sad".
People who have seen McKenna perform will know his slick rhymes and swift meter. I ask him how he got on the spoken word path.
"I started doing spoken word in college. Before then I had written poetry since I was a child, since I was seven", he laughs. "It's funny because when I was a kid I really wanted to be a pop singer so I used to write all these lyrics in my copy book. At one point it was a really natural way for me to respond to things".
He tells me that his company PETTYCASH sets out to remove inhibitions around spoken word, to build a brand around it and make it visible and accessible.
"I wouldn't be too prescriptive about it", he says on the medium. "Some people would impose heavier guidelines on what it is but for me it's poetic text that's designed to be performed and heard rather than read".
There is then the task of inserting spoken word into theatre.
"Spoken word is performed in chunks so it doesn't require all the performance mechanisms of theatre to support it. It's short and it's more about the energy. Putting it into theatre requires design and performance-based skills. This is something that we've been working on. In previous performances most of the information that I put across was through the words themselves but in this we are working on giving information through physical storytelling".
McKenna promises that the play will be fun, playful, subtly moving, and identifiable: "I think it's pertinent to the internet-using people of today".
GRINDR / a love story runs Sept 11-14 at 18.30 at Players Theatre.