The 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 Alfred Jarry.

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?

And 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?


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.


1) The 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 by three.
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 original sequence.

2) 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 unreachable other.