Redefining Theatre
Rimini Protokoll

As technology advances, it becomes impossible to separate human lives from Artificial Intelligence. It is both fascinating and troubling that while we are living more convenient and comfortable lives with the help of technology, we must face the possibility that one day we could be controlled by that technology (or Artificial Intelligence). From the movie “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” released more than ten years ago, to the more recent movie “Her”, we are repeatedly cautioned about our trust and reliance towards technology while admitting that the intelligence level of the “supercomputers” are far greater than what human beings comprehend.

It is this contradicting, and complicated relationship which inspired Stefan Kaegi to create his audio tour project “Remote X”. He has lifted the drama from the stage and onto the streets of different cities. Since 2002, Kaegi, along with fellow partners Daniel Wetzel, and Helgard Kim have started developing different tools for new perspectives through various projects under the label “Rimini Protokoll”.

For the “Remote X” project, around 50 participants wear headphones and receive instructions simultaneously by synthetic voice for a collective yet private tour around a city. Just like what we encounter in life, they face numerous dilemmas and have to make choices. Would you be able to differentiate the decisions you’ve done actively or passively? Maybe only those who experienced this can tell.

Similar to “Remote X”, another project “Situation Rooms”, created few years ago has aroused a lot of attention. It involved 20 participants living the stories of 10 people (including the roles of a refugee, child soldiers, Israeli soldiers, drug dealers and others) for 70 minutes. They enter lives influenced by different contexts and scenarios of the international arms trade and interact with the other characters. Each participant has a tablet (which syncs with the actual setting) and audio recordings, and follows the given commands and acts correspondingly. Like peeling an onion, the step by step play reveals complex relations and inspires participants to think and to re-evaluate public affairs from a new angle.

Creative works by Rimini Protokoll have brought us thought-provoking experiences while widening the imaginary space of the “theatre”, as they switch the “audience” from a passive role to an active role. Their work reminds me of another foundation named “Dialogue in the Dark”. The group creates experiences that place participants into darkness while completing different tasks demonstrating that only by experience can we can comprehend and understand the world of those with visual impairments. In this fast-changing era of individualism, empathy might need a little help from objective conditions to grow.