A virtual landscape of radical activism

 In Conversation with Arne Vogelgesang and Eric Joris


How did you both start working together on Arne’s project?

The idea was to have Arne join my team and me from CREW in a project which has some similarities to Arne’s project in terms of its technological set up. That project had to do with stars, astronomy and getting people physically inside of a virtual environment. We were interested in a type of presence where two worlds exist at the same time and overlap. I think both of us agree that pure virtual experience is not that interesting. It’s more the fact of ‘inhabiting virtuality’ or vice versa. We had our first week of common work in Brussels. It was more about experimenting: we tried things with a new software which that would bring things like different type of images, sound and data of motion capture together nicely. Arne took a very creative part in that. In the concluding shows we had in Belgium and France last year, he presented the results as one of several voices in the installation.

How would you think of similarities or differences in the way you both work?

Arne: I would describe our work as having several episodes coming together, because it is project-based work. There is hardly anything that we are constantly doing. Instead, there are episodes of pushes, and then there are lower episodes. At the same time, my impression is that both of us really work better if we are in an intense relationship, together at a place where you can talk and try out things. I had a very clear idea about my position and my opportunities at the Forecast Forum in August. The second phase was to be in Belgium together with Eric and CREW for that one intense working week. Then we met again for the shows in Belgium and France in November and December of last year. These were the pushes. And now, the next push is for the Forecast Festival.

At the same time, it was very trusting of Eric and CREW to just invite me over and say: „Let’s see what comes out of it!“ In this sense, inviting me became a part of the whole process between Eric and me. Also, that was the best way to develop an understanding for the technology we are working with now and – very importantly – getting to know each other, as well. That is always the hardest part, isn’t it?

While we are talking about getting to know each other – next to technological challenge, what sense or impression do you have talking about the idea of mentoring and both of your roles in it?

Eric: It is quite easy. I am interested in the work that Arne does, not only because of the work itself, but also because of the direction the work takes. There is no need to teach or to show him the way. Rather, there is a path we see and we try to take it together and see how CREW and I can support Arne. And for me, it is also interesting to see what happens in Arne’s field, with his background in theater and performance.

Arne: Within this very supportive relationship between Eric, CREW and me, I usually try to be as little creative as possible. That puts me in the position to focus on the technology and the content of the material that I encounter. And this is working quite well. Now I can adopt some of the things we did in Belgium and France and bring it together with my material. The processes of embodiment that I have been working with can be realized on a very high level of technological quality, since CREW works with the same system that the movie and gaming industries use. This gives me the opportunity to focus on immersion into a virtual environment in relation to political subjectivity.

Speaking of the political content: Is there something you can already say we can expect to see at the Festival? What kind of political players we will have to deal with?

Arne: There is going to be a lot of propaganda: There are going to be Nazis, there are going to be Jihadists, there is going to be a lot of awful things that tend to be quite funny as well.

This is what we are going to do during the Festival: Audience members who are interested may take part in the whole process. Whoever has always wanted to be in a motion-capture suite can join us. There is a deal, of course: You can use the technology if you are willing to provide us your body or your face or your word: nothing is for free here.

(Smiling) So you have to be a bit compromised politically, maybe. But if that doesn’t happen, we still can do the work. It is not a necessarily participatory performance. But you will be able to see everything we are doing if you are willing to go into the thing.

Here you can find more Information about Arne Vogelgesang’s project Mirror Stages.