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Interview with Pao Palacios about Una Isla


An interview between Elise de Leede, head of SPRING Academy, and Pau Palacios, artistic director of Agrupación Señor Serrano about Una Isla.

Elise: ‘How has the tour with Una Isla been going so far?’

Pau: ‘We create our shows from scratch, starting with nothing. Our creation process is quite lengthy and doesn’t follow a linear path of writing, rehearsing, and then premiering. Instead, it’s a continuous cycle. We brainstorm ideas, embark on a 10-day creative residency to bring them to life on stage, and present them to a professional audience for feedback. With their insights and our own impressions, we return home to further develop the dramaturgy, elements, content, music, and more until we have something refined. This iterative process involves multiple residencies, presentations, and feedback sessions before and after the premiere. After the premiere, we often continue refining the show based on its reception. In this particular case, working with a large team made the process challenging, and we felt somewhat unprepared for the premiere.’

‘However, we invested an additional 3-4 months in rethinking and refining the show, reaching its final version in October, which is now touring. So far, we’ve received very positive feedback, performing the final version in Spain, Italy, France, with upcoming shows in Shanghai, the Netherlands, Berlin, and more. People usually say “I have never seen something like this”. And sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not so good. It proposes questions and doubts on what is. What is put on stage? What should be a show nowadays? What does artificial intelligence have to do with theater, if it has something to do with it? Or would it be better if it doesn’t have anything to do with it? Overall, it’s been a thought-provoking journey for both us and our audiences.’

Elise: ‘In the context of Una Isla, you explore the transition from the individual ‘me’ to the collective ‘us,’ with artificial intelligence playing a significant role in this collective. During the production process, you collaborated closely with an AI chat, seeking its input on the play’s direction. Can you elaborate on this collaboration? Did you encounter any disagreements or negotiations? What was the dynamic like?’

Pau: ‘Usually the common idea of an artificial intelligence is like a chat. You have some entity behind all these algorithms, but in the end they don’t have a personality. They are not subjects, they just present themselves as such so that we humans can understand them. Most of the exercises or the writing processes we did were not in chat mode, but in writing creation mode, which is a bit different because you don’t need to put a question and they reply. You can suggest the beginning of a text or give some subjects or topics and then AI write something. It’s more complex and more than negotiating. You have to learn to tune your prompts, what you give them to get something.’

‘We emphasized the plurality of artificial intelligences, acknowledging their lack of individual personality but recognizing their collective contribution to the creative process. Our goal was to present the audience with a glimpse into this collaborative journey, showcasing the challenges, misunderstandings, and ultimately, the attempt to create something together How can we deal with these different entities, with this other, to create something together? Or is it impossible? And, that was interesting for us, to not think in artificial intelligence, but in human groups, in other human groups with whom you don’t share a common background, a common frame of concepts of ideas. Can you create something together or are we doomed to confrontation? We just tried to put the questions on the table so that you, as a spectator, can do your own reflection.’

Elise: ‘So, would you say that authorship was shared with the AI entity?’

Pau: ‘It is difficult because what you realize is that this entity has no life experience. But they can say everything. We humans depend on our life experience. We are who we are because we have had an experience, we have been in contact, we have reflected on the things that had happened to us and this is conforming our personality. The artificial intelligences, they know about sentences, they know about texts, but they don’t have a personal approach to life, and this makes it very difficult to deal with them because they can say one thing or the opposite. It just matters that it’s coherent, it’s statistically coherent with the conversation you are having. So that’s why somehow, at the end of the text, we said it’s interesting to talk with you or to interact with you. But I don’t think that we should live in your hands. Anything, nothing at all, just in your hands? No. But we can create something together.’

Elise: ‘Did this experience change your perception of trust in the unknown or in others?’

Pau: ‘I trust the other human beings more, because with any human being, it doesn’t matter how different from me, we have a common humanity and with this entity we only have a common text in writing. All this work made me more open, listen to humans very, very different from me. I don’t mean in terms of diversity or from a cultural point of view. I mean ideologically. It is interesting because I think we really need to listen to each other more.We are too much in our corners. We have more in common than we think. Above all, if you compare it with artificial intelligence.’

Elise: ‘That’s a really nice realization to learn from. I have one final question: if we speculate about the future of performing arts, what does it look like?’

Pau: ‘I think that performing arts will really be the resistance. The resistance to everything, the resistance or the defenders of humanity, really. I really believe that because it’s the only place where we can really be together. Obviously, I believe also in in groups of people meeting to deal with life and stuff but performing arts, doing it in a creative way, in an open minded way… I mean, economically it’s going to be terrible because all these right wing ways we are having in the world are going to cut more and more funding to culture, to theater, to alternative forms of art. It is not easy  becoming part of the market, but we may be poorer, but we will be wiser.’


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