date. 2020 - present
city. Patras, Amman, Berlin, Bruxelles
style. interactive dance project
Machine (un)learning is an interactive piece in which an electronic tactile device is used to send commands to the dancer. The audience experiments with the device in order to understand how the use of the digital interface correlates to the performer’s reactions. In turn, the performer’s movements become inputs for the audience and its further use of the device.
In this allegory, the audience of Machine (un)learning are manipulating the performer. But at the same time the performer created the environment (technological interface and framework for participation) and therefore controls the „rules of the game”. Surreally, the piece creates a video-game-like atmosphere where the dancer/performer is a human being manipulated by other human beings in a participative work that raises questions about manipulation, power dynamics, social connections and our relationship to technology.
The piece is based on interactive theater, inspired by Augusto Boal. This interactivity is a way to get non-dancers interested in contemporary dance, creating an experience which is fun but also thought-provoking. How can the public „interact“ with a dancer without needing to have a professional technical level? The piece captures the essence of contact improvisation: giving and taking, leading and following. Additionally, by mimicking the format of a video game, Machine (un)learning creates an approach to contemporary dance and performance that engages users and allows them to fully participate in the game using an interactive keypad that sends instructions to the performer. Participation in the performance is made as accessible as possible, so that people with physical or language barriers, different age groups can participate. And generally anyone without dance skills can play along, of course. Unlike in most video games, Machine (un)learning has no clear “win condition”, no obvious trajectory. In fact, test audiences saw more parallels to other, more ambiguous technologies, such as the algorithms used by search engines and social media. Algorithms are learning to understand humans. Just as we humans are learning to understand and obey the technology. Who is the leader, who is the follower?