Ubu Progect is a theatrical performance combining the use of
web3D and streaming technology to create a networking event that took
place simultaneously at multiple locations.
This project was inspired by some pioneering projects by
Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz like the “Satellite Art
Project” (1975-77), as well as my lifelong enthusiasm for the proto-dadaist
The performance occurred in the context of “Fusion ‘O1
: Time Travel” a collaborative event that took
place between UCLA Design | Media Arts in Los Angeles (USA), the Bauhaus-Universität
in Weimar (Germany) and the University of New South Wales in Sydney (Australia).
“Fusion ’01” actively explored the
possibility offered by networking technologies applied to the web in creating
emerging artistic spaces.
“Time Travel” was the common theme for the
participating artists and it was meant to provoke considerations
upon the changing
perception of the concepts of time and space in the era of the Internet
and computer-mediated human communication.
The concept for the piece came to me as I was reading “How to
create a time machine” by Alfred Jarry and started thinking
about his concept of “Pataphysic" "the science
of imaginary solutions". I was inspired to try a playful but serious
experiment about theatrical time.
Key concepts of time in theater are usually those of sequentiallity and
synchronism. Following these premises, “The Ubu Project” is
an imaginative attempt to provide some answers to the following questions:
What happens when we substitute the
linear sequence of
the wording into a spatial representation that simultaneously
presents the reader with all the lines of the book?
then, what happens when we break
the synchronism of the play and we
perform on an asynchronous and
looping time because of the technical delay of streaming information
through the net?
How this resulting
clock affects the sense of storytelling
and the meaning of the repertoire of coordinated actions that constitute
our body language?
REX (UBU ROY)
The Ubu Projcet is based on the play Ubu Rex,
a bizarre parody of Shakespeare's Macbeth that became a cornerstone of
the Theatre of the Absurd movement. Written by Alfred Jarry, Ubu Rex
was originally intended as a puppetry show and it narrates the story of
Pa Ubu, an old man set on to conquer Poland by any means necessary, and
the personification of the hideous side of humankind. When the play premiered
at the Theatre de L'Oeuvre in 1896, it was met with both outrage and intrigue.
The Ubu Project focuses only on the first scene of the
first act of this theatrical piece.
first part of the project consists of a web3D
virtual reality set design programmed in VRML.
The first scene is the
house of Pa Ubu and Ma Ubu where two virtual puppets welcome the viewer
into their space.
A little red door
is the way to the second site in which the written text of the play is
converted into space and is presented to the view all at once. At this
point, each sentence of the dialog between Ma Ubu and Pa Ubu is aligned
horizontally in front of the viewer.
The viewer can virtually travel through the scene and experience
the entire talking of the first scene simultaneously. Each written
line of text has a sound of the correspondent spoken sentence, which is
activated by a proximity sensor. He/she can also take a different path,
a subjective way to unfold the text, altering
its original sequence. This exploration is enhanced (and at the same time
complicated) by the possibility of moving
the text around. Every time a sentence is relocated is also multiplied
In addition, the behavior of the movement in the space does not always
correspond to the trigger of the mouse, introducing a certain indetermination
in the creation of the composition.
The idea behind this is to increase the complexity of the space, in order
to weaken the user’s ability to keep the navigation path along the
second part of the project was performed in remote locations using video
and audio streaming over the internet.
Jim Merson, the actor playing Pa Ubu was in Los Angeles, while Franziska
Heine who was play Ma Ubu was in Weimar, Germany.
A series of big projections constituted the sets in both locations. In
LA the actor was standing in front
of a big projection of the 3D VR design explained above. A camera
captured and streamed this image with sound to Germany, where it was projected
again on a big screen to aloud the actress to stand side
by side with the image of the actor with whom she was interacting.
Simultaneously, a camera in Germany streamed this scene
back to LA where it was projected right next to the first screen.
The time clock of this experiment is asynchronous
because of the delay of streaming media over the Internet.
The deferral for video and sound traveling across half the globe, is over
45 seconds, that means 1 minute and 30 seconds to go and come back. In
addiction, cameras and microphones worked
as mirroring devices, looping, bouncing, and echoing endlessly
the information that they captured.
Jim (Pa Ubu) started his acting and kept going without waiting for the
Franzisca’s answer (Ma Ubu) to arrive.
In the beginning, the timing was almost synchronized, and become increasingly
chaotic with the progression of the performance as the looping effect
added complexity to the scene.
Towards the end, the event assumed an oddly but vital schizophrenic mood,
with an increasing confusion casting
out the performers in their isolated
and relentless self-talking to the ever