AI as Performer

AI systems not only bring new technical possibilities for the performing arts but also raise the question of how much ’theater’ is inherent in AIs.
Picture of AI as Performer


One of the most fascinating aspects of the newest generation of chatbots seems to lie in an increased level of theatricality: self-learning machines such as ChatGPT impress with their ability to engage in vivid dialogue, to create empathy, to (re)act spontaneously, and to charm by critically self-reflecting on the “artificial” nature of their real effects. Meanwhile, ChatGPT users immerse themselves in giving directions - prompts - and revel, mostly also self-critically, in the suspension of disbelief created by the AI. Although playing with AIs on stage is as old as computer technology itself, the emergence of the latest AI systems not only brings new technical possibilities for the performing arts but also raises the question of how much ’theater’ is inherent in AIs. It prompts us to ask how theater and performance change in the context of digital culture and how theater, as both a social and artistic/artificial event, can reflect the hidden mechanisms and impact of the latest digital technologies on our social lives. The lecture addresses these issues by giving insights into past works and current rehearsal processes of the Berlin-based performance group Interrobang (…), which has been experimenting with the relationship between theater, participation, and digital culture for more than a decade.

Nina Tecklenburg is an artist-scholar and professor of theater and performance at Bard College Berlin. She is a co-artistic director of the performance group Interrobang and has collaborated with award-winning performance artists and groups such as Gob Squad, She She Pop, Lone Twin Theatre, Baktruppen, and Rabih Mroué. In 2017-18 she was a guest professor at Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts Berlin. Her current artistic and academic research interests include theater and digital culture, new narrative practices in contemporary performance, politics of participation, and performance activism. In 2021-22 she was a co-researcher of the research project Viral Theatres (VolkswagenStiftung). She is the author of Performing Stories: Narrative as Performance (Seagull Books 2022, German original: transcript 2014). She recently co-edited Hybrid Futures. Theatre and Performance in the Post/pandemic Anthropocene (International Journal for Performing Arts and Digital Media, 2023) and co-directed Chat Inferno (2022, nominated for Heidelberger Stückemarkt) and Die Philosophiermaschine (2020, invited to Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen).

metaLAB is partnering with the Mahindra Humanities Center to sponsor the Transmedia Arts Seminar, chaired by metaLAB Principal Researcher, Magda Romanska, and an Affiliate, Ramona Mosse.