Constructing Testimony in The Times of Pandemic
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The pandemic had compelled many of us to rely on online platforms to create performances, design seminars, and conferences, and make art. As a meditation on that moment in time, Kai Tuchmann and Anuja Ghosalkar conceived a VR exhibition on the open source platform Mozilla Hubs for the Serendipity Arts Foundation, New Delhi between December 16th-18th 2020. The title of this show was, Look, here is your machine. Get In!, which are also the opening lines of Brecht’s radio play, Lindbergh’s Flight. To explore the virtual realm with all its potentialities and pitfalls, they invited nine interdisciplinary practitioners from India, China, and Sri Lanka to create artworks–– an archivist, a music collective, a theatre scholar, visual artists, and theatre makers. All of them bring their distinct aesthetic and political commitments to it. The impetus was less to incite stagings of Brecht`s play, but more a rumination on its (failed) hopes for the medium of radio. Through this approach, they explored our contemporary intersection of art, technology, and society.
Drawing from this, this talk will not only reflect on the role of the digital as an aesthetic device, but on its role as an infrastructure that enabled us to organize rehearsals and performances during troubled times. Kai and Anuja’s presentation will illustrate how the VR platform of Mozilla Hubs allowed them to assemble social movements and how they utilized this technology to testify to the concerns, struggles, and resistance triggered by the pandemic. They will speak of the push to audiences to participate as avatars— where they were required to unlearn practiced ways of online interaction, that of “likes” and “shares”— and to embrace unfamiliar ways of being together. They will do so by showcasing and commenting on selected works from their project.
Kai Tuchmann graduated in directing from Hochschule für Schauspielkunst Ernst Busch in Berlin. He works as a dramaturge, director, and academic. As a visiting professor at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing, he helped develop the curriculum for the BA Dramaturgy program there. Kai has also researched the history of dramaturgy as a Fulbright Scholar at the Graduate Center of the City University New York, and he is a Fellow of the Mellon School of Theatre at Harvard University. In his internationally shown documentary theatre works, Kai has explored the afterlife of the Cultural Revolution in contemporary China, the impact of urbanization on migrant workers in Europe and Asia, and the role of the body in the face of digital technologies. His stagings and dramaturgies were invited, among others, to I Dance Hong Kong, Zürcher Theaterspektakel, Festival d’Automne à Paris, and documenta-institute. His recent publication is the edited volume Postdramatic Dramaturgies-Resonances between Asia and Europe (2022).
Anuja Ghosalkar is the founder of Drama Queen—a Documentary theatre company, evolving a unique form of theatre in India since 2015. Her practice focuses on personal histories, archival absences, and blurring the hierarchies between audience and performer—to extend the idea of theatre to create audacious work. Iterations around form and process, modes of (social) media, sites, technologies, and reclaiming narratives on gender and intimacy are critical to her performance-making and pedagogy. Her performances and workshops have been programmed by the University of Oxford, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Sophiensale, Serendipity Arts Festival, National Centre for Biological Sciences, and Forum Transregionale –ZMO, among others. As guest faculty at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design, and Technology, she leads practice-based pedagogy. She has written on film and performance for Nang Magazine, Art India, Bioscope, Hakara, and Outlook, and for an edited volume on Performance Making and the Archive for Routledge. She is the 2022 research fellow at the archives of the National Centre for Biological Studies.
The DUO, Kai Tuchmann and Anuja Ghosalkar are the co-curators of the first international workshop series on Documentary Theatre in India called Starting Realities that programmed artists like Gobsquad Collective, Boris Nikitin, Rimini Protokoll, Zhao Chuan through 2018-19. Collaboratively they curated a symposium on Documentary Theatre practices in India and Asia for the Serendipity Arts Festival in 2019 titled, Connecting Realities. They are co-curators of a VR-based performance called, Look, Here is Your Machine, Get In! for the Serendipity Arts Virtual 2020. For the Brecht Festival, Augsburg 2022, they curated an experimental video work. In 2022 they designed and facilitated an online course curriculum on Digital Documentary Theatre for the Serendipity Arts Foundation. The duo has facilitated workshops
and lectures at It’s the Real Thing, Basel, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, National School of Drama, New Delhi, Harkat Studio, Mumbai, Goethe-Institute Bangalore, and Mumbai, Under The Mango Tree, Berlin, University of Music and Performing Arts, Frankfurt. Currently, they are editing a book on the history of Documentary Theatre in India, that will be published in 2024 by Hong Kong University Press.
ANNA MARZIANO ON LOOK, HERE IS YOUR MACHINE. GET IN! from Kai Tuchmann on Vimeo.
metaLAB is partnering with the Mahindra Humanities Center to sponsor the Transmedia Arts Seminar, co-chaired by metaLAB Principal Researcher, Magda Romanska, and metaLAB Affiliate, Ramona Mosse.