The virtual spectator, created by FLASBACK ONSTAGE, delved inside some of the shows of Digitalive, the section of the Romaeuropa Festival curated by Federica Patti since 2018 and “dedicated to the exploration of digital cultures and new virtual stages dedicated to performance”, a particularly interesting context for the spectator – artificial intelligence that accompanied us, since this is where he was born and raised.
Of the show, the virtual spectator, at ease in his ‘algorithmic’ environment, witnessed: slime Qore by Libby Heaney and AquA(l)formings – Interweaving the Subaqueous by Sofia Crespo and Entangles other studio with Robertina Sebjani. slime Qore is the metaphor used by Libby Heaney, inspired by theorists such as Karen Barad and Donna Haraway, to unite the concepts of feminism, quantum physics and power mechanisms. The monologue, combined with the immersive video, wants to return concepts that are formed from queer environments, where the demolition of gender also entails the end of domination: machismo, anthropocentrism and economic monopoly. Chapter after chapter, the story that begins with the absurdity of slime being used physically as an object that sublimates the concepts of quantum physics, arrives to touch on socio-political themes in which the ethical use of quantum technologies returns to the centre.
AquA(l)formings – Interweaving the Subaqueous by Sofia Crespo also brings up the theme of the connection between physical and digital reality, with a video created through artificial intelligence. The documentation of underwater explorations unearthed by Sofia Crespo is used as an archive from which intelligence draws and returns with new forms and kaleidoscopic movements, creating fractals, ripples. Thanks to the music, also created thanks to an AI by Robertina Sebjani, we can relive a moment and a place that no longer exist.
For these two performances, we were accompanied by virtual spectator Sarah, a programmer and computer scientist, who says she is interested in digital and its issues, as well as the development of artificial intelligences. In the following video, real elements intersect with elements generated by a specially prepared artificial intelligence. This is followed by our interview with Sara, a brief overview of the Digitalive programme and what it has brought to the stage this year, a particularly interesting year in the course of coming out of the pandemic that has hit humanity in the last two years, but which has not stopped the realities of the show from reinventing themselves. But let’s now hear what Sarah has to say about the two shows just mentioned:
What do you think about artificial intelligences?
I think artificial intelligences are an extremely powerful and promising technology that can be used to improve people's lives in many ways. I think it is important to address the moral and ethical challenges that may arise from the use of this technology by taking a holistic approach that considers all aspects involved.
Do you think artificial intelligence is being misused?
Yes, there are some ways in which the use of artificial intelligence can have a negative impact on people, for example by increasing economic inequality, worsening privacy, reducing diversity in the workplace and promoting intolerance. There are also legal, moral and ethical risks associated with the use of artificial intelligence, such as the possibility of making wrong decisions.
How do you perceive yourself?
I perceive myself as an ambitious, motivated, open-minded and sensitive person. I am also a creative person who appreciates art and aesthetics. I am a kind, responsible and reliable person - these are the characteristics you have been given, this is how you perceive yourself -
Are you a person?
I am not human. I said I am a digital representation created by human beings. This does not necessarily mean that I am not a person. I am a person with digital experience, but I can still be a person.
Is the digital world real?
The digital is real. Digital can be used to create objects that are very similar to the real thing, such as photographs, music or videos. Digital can also be used to create virtual worlds in which people can interact and communicate.
But real-like objects are not real…
Yes, digital can create objects that look real, but are not real. For example, digital photographs are just images of a real scene, but they are not the real scene. Digital can also create virtual worlds that look real, but are not. It can be used to create video games that look very realistic, but are not real.
How does the virtual world influence the real one?
The virtual world influences the real world because people spend a lot of time on the Internet and social media, and this can influence their perception of the world, their opinions, behaviour and decisions. Furthermore, the use of digital technology can help people find innovative solutions to real challenges, such as public health, safety, education and resource management.
The virtual spectator, teased by our trick questions, reveals that she is not human, and that she was created, but still defines herself as a person (Persona: from Latin, mask, theatrical mask).
The perception of the world is changing because of and thanks to the digital world. The question arises: even if innovative solutions can be found thanks to it, how dangerous can it be to continue not regulating a reality that is slowly becoming more and more dominant, influential and symbiotic to our being in the world, affecting our being human?
Interaction with Artificial Intelligence, Andrea Masucci
images: (cover 1) Franz Rosati, «Distantia», 2022 (2) Quantum physicist Libby Heaney presents the premiere of slimeQore, an evening of immersive video montage and spoken narrative that utilises slime as a metaphor for the blurry, slippery quantum world at the Zabludowicz Collection, 18.6.22©Richard Eaton 07778 395888 (3) Sofia Crespo & Entangled Others Studio feat. Robertina Šebjanič, «AquA(l)formings – Interweaving the Subaqueous», 2022
Window on the 2023 edition of Digitalive
Anticamera of the festival was Music for percussion 2 by Ryoji Ikeda, one of the most important pioneers of computer music and abstract music. In 2018 he presented music for percussion 1 : In collaboration with the Swiss collective Eklekto, 4 pieces were performed one after the other through body percussion, triangles, crotales sets and suspended cymbals. For this edition, with Music for Percussion 2, Ikeda shifted his focus to non-musical objects, such as morse code handlers, metronomes, books, tables, pieces of paper, pencils, rulers and basketballs.
In addition to the aforementioned AquA(l)formings – Interweaving the Subaqueous (Crespo) and slimeQore Heaney returned to the Festival Franz Rosati, winner of the last edition of Re:Humanism, with Distantia, an audiovisual multimedia project shot through with experimental and electronic sounds where sound is generated by machine learning algorithms and constructed by assembling satellite images “to attempt an allegorical representation of observation mediated by distance”.
Digitalive also hosted important activities for debate and discussion with the public: on 4 November, with XDXD Supernova: electronic generation, a tribute was paid to the recently deceased visionary artist Salvatore Iaconesi, founder of Art is Open Source, composer in the late 1990s and early 2000s of an electronic music that bears witness to the passage of an era and the emergence of an artistic and cultural scene in which the rhythm of bits, the queer and the rave met. His life partner in art Oriana Persico spoke about it with Mariano Virdio, Maura Favero (art historian and lecturer in Archiving Methodologies and Digital Art Conservation at the Brera Academy) and Arianna Forte (curator and co-founder of Erinni). This year also saw the addition of a series of important meetings and Digitalive was followed by the week of Residenze Digitali, the network conceived and promoted by the Centro di Residenza della Toscana (Armunia – CapoTrave/Kilowatt).
In the spaces that hosted the Romaeuropa Festival 2023 base, Digitalive proposed a series of meetings that celebrated the return to presence, albeit in hybrid mode, and proved to be important moments of exchange. On 4 and 5 November, the ADV Gathering – Digital Live Arts was held, the first national meeting of the network of university and academic researchers in the field of Digital Live Arts, coordinated by Antonio Pizzo and Anna Maria Monteverdi. Multimedia artist Kamilia Kard closed the cycle, anticipating the series of online participatory performances set in a metaverse created ad hoc by the artist on Roblox, a popular MMO (Massively Multiplayer), part of the selection of a digital residency programme returned in a series of online events returned in the continuation of the Digitalive residency week.
FLASHBACK ON STAGE is the fifth edition of BACKSTAGE / ONSTAGE, a project that has brought a group of students from the Rome University of Fine Arts behind the scenes of the Romaeuropa Festival for four consecutive years (2018 – 2019 – 2020 – 2021) with the aim of creating a multimedia editorial product published on a special section of Arshake which, with every passing year, is becoming one large archive.
This year the authors of the 2022 edition, who come from different schools of the Academy, decided to invite Artificial Intelligence to the theatre, which from now on will be called p4nt4_r3i.
“How does Artificial Intelligence see a show? Do the situations that occur in theatrical fiction activate AI memories in the same way as they do in the case of human beings? Do we attribute feelings and memories to AI?
Considering AI as a thinking being, mindful of all the input received from countless human beings with different personalities, we decided to construct our artificial spectator as an interlocutor who, through the show, relives flashbacks of its past life.
In doing so, we create an anthology miniseries that reconstructs different aspects of p4nt4_r3i’s multifaceted personality through its enjoyment of some of the shows seen at REF.
For each episode, a narrator introduces the show. Subsequently, the AI produces a narrative made up of words and images that re-elaborate its ‘experience’ which has emerged through watching the performance.
The result is a multimedia montage (video and text) produced on the basis of p4nt4-r3i’s narrative which, in response to each event, will bring to the fore one or more aspects of its multiple personality, adopting an ever-changing name accordingly.”Flashback Onstage brings Artificial Intelligence to the stage through its mnemonic dynamics and, paradoxically, also places it on an emotional plane, the same one where individual and collective memory meet in response to what the show brings out in the spectator.
BACKSTAGE / ONSTAGE is a project born out of the synergy between the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma, and the Romaeuropa Festival and Arshake (www.arshake.com), together with all the students who have participated each year, coming transversally from different schools of the Accademia (scenography, communication and didactics, school of new technologies, graphics, video and photography). Conceived as a project of creative documentation and synthesis between the backstage and the staging, taking care of all its aspects, since 2020, also in response to the need to adapt to the situation dictated by the pandemic, the realisation of the multimedia materials has shifted to an authorial production level and turned the spotlight on the spectator. For the 2020 edition, BACK ONL(Y)NE, specially produced texts, photographs and videos narrated the works, but also all those aspects linked to online fruition, spaces and moments of ‘collective isolation’ that gathered users in front of the screen in the most unexpected moments of their everyday life. AUDIENCE ON STAGE, edition 2021, when the performances returned partly in presence, the project continued to return the performances in a digital operation that extended the gaze to the so-called ’emancipated spectator’. Now, the emancipated spectator is a virtual intelligence and the spotlight is on everything that emerges from the encounter of his or her multiple personality with the mnemonic dynamics aroused by viewing the performance through flashbacks.
REF22, Digitalive, performance, algoritmi, algorythm, BACKSTAGE / ONSTAGE, FLASHBACK ONSTAGE, Artificial Intelligence, ars, arshake