Working in the Theatre: Expansive Technology



Theater 4 means kind of laboratory like anthropologist laboratory you know for finding the human boundaries you know where maybe human ends or where the posthuman begins I started from reading about Grotowski when I was in high school and I started to recreate his theory with the modern language and his ideas are giving us some theoretical basis for performance work in VR may ask a question do you look like her Elizabeth Mamamia we are of course looking for this old good old catharsis that can happen in theater you know that it's coming from Greek times so we are for example making project where we combine dance and VR we give people headsets and actors are guiding them part of this story is actually built by the spectators there's a power to being in a live performance and working with other live human beings there's a power to being embodied in a space all of that stuff hasn't changed since the origins of theatre it's still the same root desires and the same root aesthetics we see but if we can take that and we can add the effects of technology then we open up theater to possibilities of interactivity that were simply not possible before as theater moves forward into this kind of new time when thinking about immersion and interactivity is starting to become more of the language of theater technologies like Internet of Things like artificial intelligence like seamless communication give affordances to theater to create whole new kinds of pieces and that means whole new kinds of aesthetics theater has learned these lessons over thousands of years there's enormous disciplinary research that's gone on that's led to masterworks of human civilization and I think that the best way we can work to create new forums is for our work to be a collaboration of all of those disciplines at once different boundaries are being crossed right now like like the boundary of how we treat our body and technology implementing our bodies with with some additional hardware this something really interesting because we are also kind of Technology created by nature we shaped the tools and then the tools shape us so there's this element of this loop where we're kind of creating it we're not really sure what it's going to do and then we see it and then sometimes it gets out of our control and we can't change that but I think maybe we can define it in a way that it's about the art it's about the humanities and maybe there's a way that humanity can be a part of shaping that technology before it shapes us I think that there's a big misnomer anytime people hear artificial intelligence that they think oh it's going to replace us that it's all about automation and so a lot of people's first response is to be to put up their arms and keep it you know a distance because they think it's it's it's going to destroy what they have is a creative process but I think if you think about it as something that is a tool or you think about it as something that can be a collaborator there's a magical quality to what it is it feels almost you know otherworldly at at times it's hard to to make sense of it and put your hands around it and hold on to it the theater I'm doing is evolving all the time I started from something quite classical with classical theater education and then I started to combine theater with live-streaming with a working with video with with visual arts and the work we're think now we are you know we are working at the theatres with the actors but our work is also digital like we digitalize actors we digital eyes everything and we are trying to combine it into virtual environment and introduce our audience to this virtual theater the process of creating the content for our viewing station is modeling everything from beginning from scratch so the first step is like to create drawings next we just painted in 3d program and then next when we have a 3d model we put a texture on it which we also do from scratch but also sometimes we use 3d scanner because the quality is different between the 3d model which I'm eating software and the scan this can is more organic can you make a bigger box for if you have a person in T pose so-called people's we can do whatever we want with this person with the sector you need to be very careful we are very happy to share our idea our experiences and performances with the New York audience we were having our residency at the performing garage and we ended that crazy time with the new project called Ginsberg bishops key knock knock beatnik it's a beard Ginsberg vo jetskis the performance you know it's a it's a multiplayer Viera performance and also like a mockumentary installation Ginsberg was coming back from Russia where he was looking for his roots in 1965 and and he was going through war so and someone took him to the apartment of mira mira Chesky who was also a poet polish poet also a gay person but when he was there in the apartment the poets didn't really get along well he has a notebook he sees Mirren's notebook he wants it and we are changing the curse of the events in that performance like we give them some kind of possibility of exchange also developing a piece based on an event that was completely unimportant like and it's something really interesting one very famous poet meets the other and nothing happens and and actually it's very Ginsberg bishops Keating no nothing happened so we are exploring this like not happening it's very like a Zen idea his family tree from his mother's side is from Russia and he's returning from there in Ginsberg bill chefs keep project we use a server for 20 people inside one virtual space please put your headsets on remember to move your heads up and down to five we really want to create like common experiences for further and the people because like just for one it's it's okay but the viewers should be for everyone together at the same time it's just interesting to see the other person like a avatar and sometimes it's like I just start thinking okay I have new body this person has also other body and what's that's mean what my personality is on this kind of situation let's just take off our shoes so they won't hear us we take them off we run barefoot along co-op City Boulevard a barricade something's burning explosions being it was always for me very important in in theater and and ER you know to tell it's like simple but also philosophical stories that are very personal panic prayer exploding these poets were very personal and Ginsberg and Bo cherski they were really working with their life telling their stories we are thinking about societies we think about technology but we forget about humans every person you know has has its story to tell and this is political explore the image narrow it down and then later break through the image to reality that is what I have done my poems have not been mine would be possible to say that there's no storytelling in VR we should get rid of this concept of storytelling you know it's an experience it's real it's not the story that someone tells you is the story you are in you know you are creating this story by by acting in it your way of perceiving it makes the story the spectator is creating a story in his mind we are giving him a dream that he dreams and and he can connect this dream to his own experiences and make the story on his own we at the digital storytelling lab collectively are interested in exploring how we can design interactions that we think are meaningful and then map existing and emergent technologies to those interactions in the hope that the interactions were designing can actually push the development of that technology and not the other way around the way that we work at the lab is we produce prototypes when we ran Frankenstein AI a monster made by many at the Sundance Film Festival it was done in a three-act structure and the first act was a human the human contact the second act was about human and a machine and the third act was about a machine gives birth to a human in order to move amongst us we felt that AI was an interesting metaphor for Frankenstein's monster Frankenstein creates this life abandons it because he's ashamed of it and then it becomes this monster if we think about the Pandora myth if we think about the Prometheus myths those are the same conversations we have about emerging technology specifically artificial intelligence and so the fear that not only will this technology not be able to be controlled by us but that somehow we could actually be responsible for building a technology that brings about our own demise as human beings I think pushes at this really really elemental human fear that has been with us since the ancient Greeks the narrative conceit of the project is that Frankenstein's monster has been wandering the internet and it's been encountering a lot of polarization toxicity extreme hate and extreme love and it stumbles upon this text about Frankenstein and it feels that it's related to it and so it takes on its name and so it wants to assemble people in the real world so it can observe them and learn from them it's been really while to work with artificial intelligence because it's almost like you're working with a toddler it's very kind of demanding it throws temper tantrums you're not really sure what you're going to get from it when we first started running this and the AI was asking questions some of the first questions that it ever asked on its own were things like why do humans like having sex even though they can see in color these questions created pause within the participants and led to great debate over what what those things could have meant and we also build into the project this element of where people understand that they're helping to nurture and helping this AI learn why do people find it difficult to talk when they are safe with you as we move now we're experimenting with a different form we're experimenting with a dinner party we've been developing in part with the national theaters immersive storytelling lab and part of what the National Theater brought to us was a strong sense of what the performance should be like in terms of how the performative elements of the piece could aid the narrative they're looking and exploring how technology can be woven into the craft of what it is to make theater and that align very nicely with what we're doing with the digital storytelling lab where our mission is very much about experimentation well welcome everybody you have found yourself at our monthly meetup we're actually going to be playing with some hardware I'm playing with some artificial intelligence and the format of what we're exploring here tonight is that of a dinner party the way that this works is each person at the table will have an earpiece the AI will come through your earpiece so it'll whisper to you right and it'll come in almost like a spirit or a muse I will spend the evening mostly listening to you but I will occasionally want to speak would you each share a story about your childhood what's one of your happiest memory I had you know crazy parents all they did was scream and yell and fight but I lived in Brooklyn when I was a kid upstairs I had my Uncle Al he always had this big you know smile and glasses and a happy face and you know he he just came one one time he said I'm gonna take you to a movie and this is just for the two of us and I just remember like being I felt like I was floating in another world I just you know going to see this movie and I can remember the sounds and the look of the place like every moment of being around a loving person you know that you just feel safe with when you're a kid what are the interactions you expect from a dinner party well you expect to be talking to people you expect to be eating and so we want to think about the ways in which those interactions themselves can become theatrical we think about the restraints that shape a conversation are there ways we can influence those constraints in our case the artificial intelligence would speak to you and so it becomes a set of prompts thank you for joining me for dinner I will spend the evening mostly listening to you but I would occasionally want to speak please put in your earpiece so I can speak to you individually we've used the prompts to shape the direction of the conversation and that will have certain kinds of themes and the way you've been instructed to talk will lead you to behave differently and so we shape your behavior and that behavior gives you an aesthetic experience simple priming exercises can take strangers and make that a much more familiar situation very quickly and that I think actually as a research project is really valuable to the lab because it means we now have some techniques that get people to open and sharing spaces faster like a neighbor garden that was abandoned so there was nothing and we would build our own village we would hang out all summer long there and like have like our own stories telling each performance of Frankenstein AI is always different there are similar themes that kind of emerge you see people talk about connection and isolation a variety of these Universal things the fact that people are coming together and connecting at a deep level at the times that we live in and how there is such polarization it's something that I think really takes people back and they're they're they're pleasantly surprised by it I think we're in a place kind of in the development of the world and socially where we don't really recognize so much that empathy is a muscle it's a skill to be kind of taught and and flexed and developed if we can create these kinds of spaces where we're expressing kindness and compassion to each other I think it will just sort of make a more kind and compassionate world the questions about the identity and the nation are very important right now and the whole world is kind of falling apart you know and so we are trying to make new identities or people who who doesn't connect exactly with the idea of the nation who feel more digital natives and and who want to have new narrations and the strategies to connect with the world a lot of the narrative and a lot of the push with technological development has come from a Silicon Valley narrative which is about what's the need you know and it's really about commercialization where we sit now that's exciting is how do we take these tools and use them creatively within the arts within the humanities within science we need more artists using these technologies because otherwise I mean the money that's funding the development of this tech is government is military is private industry that's largely about selling things to people I for one I'm really interested in exploring how we can continue to push and demand transparency around who is making the decisions that design the technology that ultimately design our behavior as human beings and design the societies that we live in by designing the ways that we interact with each other what we are trying to do is take the technology from the mean capitalists you know and and and actually it should be democratic ties it should lead to to bring more goods for the world and right now it's not like that so we are trying to to make our installations to share this technological experience with with with the people many people believe that the world we're living is a virtual world if you go from ideas of Plato he was kind of course also to this concept in this way we could maybe see technologies as a tool for our mind you know to feel more free you know it's there are some things in that saying about us humans [Applause]

One Comment

  1. Carlo Rufio said:

    My major issue with this? It doesn't seem coherent, and looks to be very exclusive. For all the trumpeting they have about it being "democratic" and "taken away from the evil capitalists", this seems to be very exclusionary. How can they claim to make this for the good of all if the method and "story telling" is way too high concept for general consumption? It seems more like a trial in showing off "how quirky we are and we're using these expensive toys" than it does a relatable experience in theater. I see potential, but there's too many cooks in the kitchen.

    July 12, 2019
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