Polyhybrid art in Moosach: an experimental project at the Meta Theater – Ebersberg

The pandemic has digitized all of us. Suddenly, events are being streamed live everywhere. An entire stage in front of an empty house. But is that all? Is it really that simple? What challenges do artists face when interacting remotely? What concepts work well and which don’t? What does “artistic quality” mean in the digital world anyway? And what is the best way to implement a multi-hybrid model?

Meta Theater is currently searching for answers. Moosach’s small but adorable stage – thanks to various subsidies – is now technically well equipped, only the corresponding high-speed line is still a long way off. Part of the whole projectMeta Theater #digitalIt is also a series of events in which new hybrid formats are sought and developed. No wonder, for the house of Axel Tangerding has always considered itself a free laboratory developing new ideas in order to bring them into the theatrical scene. It stops again if you look at it with Joseph Beuys: “It is It comes from the future.” In other words: a digital attack should not only be understood as a response to the pandemic, but should be understood above all as an investment in new infrastructure that should have a lasting impact.

The digital stage should allow the exploration of new avenues of interaction

The basis of this pilot project is a platform under development called “UpStage”. This digital stage should make it possible to explore new avenues of interaction – between artists, but also with the public. In this case, this means: the creative actors are partly located in the Meta Theatre, partly connected directly from other rooms. The same applies to the audience: some are sitting at home on the sofa, some in the theater. This creates multi-dimensional evenings in which the different levels intersect, overlap and – ideally – vibrate with each other. Florian Reinhold, nicknamed Gaston, took the artistic direction, as an actor, improvisational artist, magician, and coach, he is already a convinced cross-countryman.

The research team has already called for five “hybrid evenings of improvisation full of surprises” — and not so much back. Since the work in progress is already happening here, the project has not only a lot of surprises for viewers, but also for its artistic and technical representatives. Honestly: the “Impro Open Up-Stage” series is still far from perfect. However, it is worth being there, because the audience is gaining insight into a very exciting process. After the performance, the audience in the theater is asked to describe their impressions, and a stimulating discourse develops between theater, technology and parquet.

On this last evening before summer vacation, the motto was: Poetry meets painting, music meets magic. A kind of re-reading of hybrid numbers is performed – in the role of the red thread: Gaston. As the fictional character Jacqueline, he leads the program, but also contributes to one or another of the cabaret entrees. Otherwise painter Max Ott, spontaneous poets Daniel Graziadi and Lionel Dzak, head of the digital department at the Pathos Theater in Munich, act and falter. At Moosach, the former works first on a stand and then on a tablet, while the latter two make their contributions to the theater online.

The back wall acts as a screen, where you can see letters, paintings, movies, and even an avatar from Tangerding

Because there the analog stage is complemented by a digital backwall. The wall serves as a screen on which to chat with online viewers on the one hand, and a piece of art on the other: letters, paintings, films and even the avatar of Tangerding straying across the large surface. Applause comes from the can and from the ranks, as the spectators at home send many hearts and smiles.

First, Graziadei completes Ott’s panel with new verses and vocalizations in real time, and the audience is invited to “empathize with her”. Inspired by brushstrokes on analog canvas, talking about Heart of Darkness, in different colours, about Valley of Happy Sunshine. The unseen Graziadei wrote: “The world shines from the picture on the web – and now?” Later, Dzaack makes experimental, mostly spherical, breathing sounds, you can see his hands operating various instruments, at some point Ott starts drawing in the video. Abstract structures appear, cables take on a life of their own, blurring reality and fantasy. Finally, the two artists do the third work on site: Jacqueline invents one of her own thrilling spontaneous stories about an angry bird and the origin of the sun, and Ott tries to emphasize her words with digital art. Try, because the drawing program usually does not want to play along.

The main task of the technicians: prayer – please, everything remains stable

In general: the entire stage space is full of technology, computers, cameras and screens everywhere, four people are busy operating all incoming and outgoing channels, creating a total artwork from different sources. But it seems that her main task is to pray – please, everything will remain stable. There were several problems that evening, but it is not clear at what time exactly. Then it turned out that the model “breakcloud”, which Gaston mastered so well, works only symmetrically. Meanwhile, viewers at home who were left behind are likely clicking helplessly around each other. “Why can’t I see anything???”

Jacqueline can not only chat and temper, but can also do magic. This means that – at least for the analog audience – any technical failure can be magically bridged.

(Photo: Anja Bloom/Oh)

“When digital with analog” – then still shakes dramatically. Not only do streams fail over and over in different directions, the analog version of the scene also has its drawbacks, especially in terms of size and viewing angles. The easel that Ott is working on should be larger, for example, so you can watch him paint without straining. On the other hand, Jacqueline obscures much of the poetry that appears on the back wall of the stage as if written by magic. So the evening is a challenge – for all involved.

Keeping calm is the order of the day – and pay attention to those moments when the complex new coordination is at work. Because it definitely exists. When artists find inspiration across genres. When sound and image develop a common attraction. When supposed failure generates unexpected comic scenes. When limitless imagination makes you forget all limited technology. When touches occur across space and time. Then a charm appears that needs to be preserved and transformed so that it can work again on other evenings.

Platform developers are looking forward to suggestions from hands-on testing

“Impro Open Up-Stage” is an extensive learning process. Actors want to understand how to connect multiple theaters and auditoriums as well as analog and digital sources – equally. They want to synchronize the words, image, movement and sound that make the tiles dance with each other. And many will benefit from their experience: The team is in close contact with the Up-Stage developers about Helen Farley, who are happy to receive any suggestions from hands-on testing. Together you are on the road to a multi-hybrid art future, and there is still a lot to discover. So it should continue in the fall.

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