Since 2016, Schaubude Berlin has been awarding a four-week research residency every summer to examine the effects of digital transformation. The programme is aimed at artistic teams of two to four people, of which at least one person must be a professional specialising in the performing arts and have used puppets, figures, objects or animation forms of new media in previous works.
Die Schaubies, Forschungsresidenz 2020 zur Poesie von Algorithmen
The residence is a research laboratory. We provide premises, technical equipment, a guest flat and mentoring. The research project does not have to be part of a planned production and does not oblige to a premiere. Rather, the aim of the Residence is to offer the group a place to research artistic ideas, try out new forms and develop possibilities for new collaborations.
In this research project, the residency team from Hamburg and Halle/Saale - virtual reality experience designer Lena Biresch, puppeteer Lena Wimmer and 3D animator Tore Nobiling - are looking at the performative significance of avatars and exploring the opportunities and limits of their use in virtual reality.
Central to the project is the concept of "homuncular flexibility" by Jaron Lanier et al., which is about the extensibility and mutability of the homunculus - the term used to describe the mapping of movements and sensations experienced by the body located in the neurocortex of the brain. For example, when a limb is injured or amputated, the corresponding regions in the homunculus shift to other parts of the body. This flexibility is a prerequisite for identifying with the body of an avatar in VR at all.
Research into these processes combines findings from psychology, neuroscience, philosophy and computer science and is based on the thesis that the homunculus can adapt bodies that differ significantly from the typical human form. Since there is no absolute separation between avatar and world in VR, the shape one takes on is of great importance.
In addition, there is the assumption of an increase in empathy: if one moves through water like a fish, can one not also think more like a fish? Thus, the use of peculiar avatars can awaken previously unused areas of the brain that are linked to the body. VR thus becomes a toolkit for exploring homuncular flexibility and offers the possibility of better understanding the relationship between the brain and the rest of the body (cf. Lanier, 2018).
The research findings of Lanier et al. are to be explored with today's technical means and made tangible in the interdisciplinary implementation. Which possible avatars (e.g. non-human, multiple or consisting of the environment) can the human brain adapt to?
Lena Biresch will tackle the programming of the avatars' controls, Tore Nobiling will tinker with their three-dimensional form and Lena Wimmer will contribute her know-how from puppetry for the movement sequences.
Was passiert, wenn wir die Wahrnehmungsmöglichkeiten eines Computers ernstnehmen? Welche neue Welten kann ein Algorithmus erzeugen? Was für Gedichte kann er hervorbringen und was haben wir eigentlich von alldem?
Um diese und weitere Fragen zu erforschen, verglich das Künstler*innen-Team Friederike Schmidt-Colinet, Robert Läßig, Li Lorian und Carlos Franke Inszenierungspraktiken im Objekttheater mit Bilderkennungsmechanismen. Sie hoffen dabei nicht nur Neues über Algorithmen zu lernen, sondern auch neue Erkenntnisse und Vorgehensweisen für das Objekttheater zu gewinnen.
Die Forschungsresidenz 2020 wurde realisiert aus Mitteln der Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa.
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