Finding Poetry in the Technology
The series of OpenLabs was successfully launched with a two-day meeting in Nancy, France, in fall 2016. Bringing together theatre makers with digital experts such as Jan Gerigk and Bernd Lintermann from the ZKM Center for Art and Media, as well as artists working in the field, like Bruno Cohen from the Urban User Lab, participants explored topics like virtual reality, augmented reality and gamification to see how these technologies can lead to new forms of staging and communicating. Watch the video documentation of two inspiring days:
“We dove right into the subjects, gaining expertise so that we can better harness their potential for our creative work. The fruitful exchange with experts laid the theoretical groundwork for the creative projects” says Sarah Mckee from CDN Théâtre de la Manufacture Nancy. The event focused on questions like: How can we share a theatrical event locally and live? How can we overcome geographical borders in order to share an event, time and space together virtually?
Event highlights included an introduction to the acclaimed Karlsruhe Maptory, which is a tourism app that depicts the history of Karlsruhe with actors from Staatstheater Karlsruhe. A making of video can be seen here. Participants also paid a visit to the Expressive Game Lab at TCRM Blida, where students research games in terms of their ability to transport values and messages – the human aspect of gaming, in other words. The students at the Expressive Game Lab are working on new forms of gamification and hail from a variety of backgrounds in subjects like history, literature, economics.
A quick refresher: Virtual reality, augmented reality
One aim of the programme was to learn more about augmented reality – which works with your “normal” reality and adds a virtual level to your usual reality perception. On the other hand, virtual reality puts the user in a completely virtual space by using glasses/masks and directing tools. OpenLab participants experienced this first-hand during the presentation by Human Games.
All work and no play?
As gaming was a focus topic, participants made sure to leave the lab and embrace play as a form of learning, using Pokemon Go as an example. Considered a watershed in bringing augmented reality to a broad public, Pokemon Go is an example of a storytelling technique that combines simple elements to form a story.
What we learned
Again, we found that the challenge ahead lies in retaining the soul of theatre – that is, its live, immediate quality that places the human in the centre. “We need to expand the stage, but without sacrificing the ineffable qualities of theatre,” notes Jan Linders. “That means we need to find the poetry in the technology.”
Experts and artists joining the OpenLab 1 included Bruno Cohen, Urban User Lab (Nancy), Jan Gerigk and Bernd Linternamm, ZKM Center for Art and Media (Karlsruhe), Lasha Kvantaliani, Treepex (Tblisi), Deise Mikhail and Marti di Stefano, Human Games (Nancy). The full OpenLab agenda with biographies for participating experts can be downloaded here.