Anything & Everything
Entering a little theatre lab at the top of ACMI, I am an immediate observer to a gaggle of teens tag-teaming in front of the camera. Their playful anecdotes are broadcast up on the big screen. Macbooks, cameras, screens, lights, and projection are everywhere. It’s a little black box of playful tech mayhem, and this troupe is out to make some quick fire 2022-style content.
Anything & Everything quickly immerses me in the world of the Zoomer. I feel old, almost immediately. This young collection of female and non-binary teens move swiftly around the stage, chatting about their identities and creating little choreographed videos of each other. The set-pieces are seamless, snappy, and wildly authentic. This doesn’t feel like a performance so much as it is an observation of this group of friends, doing their thing.
Each of them take their turn, donning costumes that speak to a persona they like, demonstrating their love of art, showcasing their plans for a dream home, or simply reflecting on their identity. There’s a very familiar adolescence to most of what they’re doing. And yet, there’s a very new way of thinking and being that is a striking testimony to just how much the world has changed since I was a teenager.
I start to see very quickly that many of the supposed issues us older folk are debating are entirely uncontroversial to this crowd. The diverse nature of identity, gender, and our online personas are all assumed platforms of dialog, exploration, and play. These young people recognise that the face they show in a photo online is just as meaningful as the face they show to their friends, or to a mirror. There is no distinction between who they are in private, their avatar, or their costumed persona which exists in a fleeting Tik-tok video. Their nature is diverse, their gender is fluid, how they describe themselves is multifaceted, rich, changeable, dynamic, and impossible to fully pin down. They have a kind of peaceful pragmatism to the inescapable chaos of the human experience.
As this show progressed, I became entirely swept up in how beautiful the reality for these Zoomers seems to be. They weren’t grappling with confusion around who they were or which path to choose. They seemed liberated from having to make that choice at all. They had the language, support, and freedom to be everything they wanted to be. To self-express, self-describe, and self-invent without judgment. Technology and the online world have given them a place to be whatever they want, or perhaps try out being many things. And they’re all there for each other, to help that happen, and to do it well.
As I sat in the crowd in the closing chapter, one of their cameras suddenly turned on me. And there I was, projected up on the big screen, leaning on my hand, tears streaming down my cheeks, and looking proud as punch of these little humans. It all gave me wonderful hope for humanity, and a kind of restful assurance that the next generation has this shit under control. Like I need to hand over the world to these people as soon as possible. Because the future is damn bright, I reckon. Anything & Everything convinced me of that. Go see it for yourself, and let it convince you too.