Presse – Artist Talk


Virtual theater in a freight container - Studio Naxos invites you to an intimate encounter with a digital avatar with "Artist Talk"

Whether live stream or interactive network performance: In times when the theaters had to remain closed, the performing arts tried out a few other broadcast channels in order to still be able to reach the audience. The digital media used are not necessarily new territory, after all, whatever new media technology has to offer has always been integrated on the stage, and the boundaries between the arts have been blurring for a long time. In the independent theater scene in particular, many artists position themselves at the interfaces, some also at the interface with digital art. Nevertheless, the initial situation in the past few months is likely to have been different, because the search was often simply a different stage for the theater.

At a time when the theaters are reopened, Jakob Engel, Jan Philipp Stange and their team are now showing in Studio Naxos with "Artist Talk" as part of the "Swamp Festival" taking place there, a work that experiments with such a different stage explores the boundaries between live theatrical situations and digital space. In a freight container behind Frankfurt's Naxoshalle, visitors are invited to take a seat in an armchair and put on VR glasses. "Artist Talk" is announced as a 1: 1 performance and can therefore only be attended by one person at a time. The opposite appears when the VR glasses are put on: In the virtual environment, a digital, human-shaped avatar sits opposite the visitor in an armchair and greets the guest. You are in a house, a villa in the style of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. You can't walk around in the virtual space, but the VR glasses allow you to look around in all directions.

There is not much time to look at the room at first, because the avatar draws attention, starts a conversation, introduces himself and also invites the guest to introduce himself. One quickly learns that the virtual opposite is called Judith, is an artist and allegedly recently acquired the luxurious house in which one is located. The eye falls on the moving boxes that are still standing around. The Avatar seems to notice this look, and so she mentions that she hasn't gotten around to unpacking everything yet. These first minutes of the conversation in particular are irritating and fascinating at the same time. How can the other person see the view of the boxes? Who do you talk to? Is the avatar controlled by a real person, and if so, where is they sitting? Or is it a recording or a computer talking to you? It soon becomes clear that a real conversation is possible, that there has to be a body somewhere that controls the avatar live, like the gestures of the hands that match what is being said.

However, the conversation with performer Judith Altmeyer, who holds this role, does not seem to have one goal. Even if she sometimes steers it in a certain direction, the conversation remains on the level of charming small talk. But what is said is not decisive either. Framed as a theatrical situation, the performance above all raises questions in this regard, asking what can be understood as a stage here, where the bodies are to be located and where the boundaries between virtual and real surroundings, between fiction and reality, run. This makes the work fascinating. Not for the possibilities of VR technology, but for the basic questions of theater. (David Ritterhaus, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, July 19, 2021)

HR2, 07/21/2021:

Artist Talk, Virtual Reality Performance: What did this virtual reality have in store for the visitors?

Mario Scalla:
Then it went into a container that was set up behind the hall, VR glasses were put on and a very tastefully furnished room appeared in the dark chamber. At some point this avatar sat opposite, a virtual figure who introduced itself to me as Judith. Then a conversation began. That went on for half an hour, a very entertaining half hour. There was the either-or game, so “sea or mountains”, “prefer train or plane travel” and more and at some point the blinds within the virtual space in these VR glasses opened and there was a glimpse of a wonderfully romantic wooded area. So in the hut you would like to take a vacation - a caravaggio hung tastefully on the wall, a log was in the fireplace and there was a nice chat with an avatar.

Moderation: And Mario Scalla, what is your summary? Was it worth the chat with him with the avatar? Has he appeared as a serious interlocutor, as an interlocutor?

Mario Scalla: That was the question in those half an hour that you sat there: Can the avatar pass the interview? I tried to trick him a few times, so instead of answering questions myself or asking surprising ones, because there was the suspicion that I was talking to programmed software. I wanted to ask something that she wasn't programmed to do. Because it was unclear: Is there a program behind this person sitting in the armchair across from me, or is there actually a real person somewhere? That was a somewhat unsafe situation, because with one person there is a personal conversation and with the avatar it is not serious, it is an exchange of blows - such a communicative no man's land actually exists - and then the effect was reversed: at some point I observed myself and your own conversational strategies with someone you cannot properly assess. Afterwards that was resolved and then this performance, of which you had been a part, developed into a very productive and stimulating irritation.

Moderation: Mario, last question: Is it worth the evening?

Mario Scalla: The evening is definitely worth it, so a clear recommendation.

Artist Talk, Virtual Reality 1:1 Performance

The performance raises questions what can be understood as a stage here, where the bodies are to be located and where the boundaries between virtual and real surroundings, between fiction and reality, run. This makes the work fascinating.


Tickets click here
22.7.2021 - 5.9.2021.

Chuckling frogs, chirping crickets: in ARTIST TALK you will encounter a human avatar in a virtual landscape. How does talking to a hybrid person actually work? Chatter, gossip, babble, be silent: it remains a mystery. What can you share if the other person is not made of flesh and blood? In the 1: 1 performance ARTIST TALK, which is always individual and confidential, you create a personal tête-à-tête between mankind and avatar.

Performance: Judith Altmeyer, direction / stage: Jakob Engel and Jan Philipp Stange, digital artist: Gloria Schulz, sound: Laila Gerhardt, dramaturgy: Philipp Scholtysik, stage planning and construction: Marcus Morgenstern and Jesko Haschke, motion capture: Laila Gerhardt, organizational Co-director: Pia Louise Jahn, mediation: Janine Bürkli, Sara Gröning, Barbara Luchner, Ines Wuttke, production management: Alessia Neumann, co-production: Janine Bürkli, Sara Gröning, Barbara Luchner, photos: Camilo Brau, internal training: Dr. Jessica Lütgens, Dr. Julia Schneider, Isabelle Zinsmaier. Many thanks to room fox for using the premises.

A production by Stange Produktionen in cooperation with studioNAXOS, with the kind support of the Kulturamt der Stadt Frankfurt, the Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain and the Fonds Darstellende Künste with funds from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media for the pending program “Be my Guest”. Sponsored by Manus ™. Stange Produktionen receives institutional funding from the City of Frankfurt am Main's Department of Culture and the Fonds Darstellende Künste for several years.

Artist Talk Artist Talk
Artist Talk Artist Talk