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Interview: Stefan Kaegi about Uncanny Valley

 

Since 2002, Stefan Kaegi has been working as part of the Rimini Protokoll, together with two other directors, Helgard Haug en Daniel Wetzel. The German theatre company was the “Brandstichter” of the International Theatre Amsterdam in 2017. There, they played the performances Situation Rooms – Ein Multi Player Video-Stück and Nachlass - Pièces sans personnes. Other works of Rimini Protokoll are 100% Stadt, Weltklimakonferenz en Karl Marx: Das Kapital, Erster Band. They predominantly work with individuals or collectives that tell their stories without being trained actors. Rimini Protokoll calls them “experts of everyday life or of their own life”.
For Uncanny Valley, Kaegi worked with German author Thomas Melle. Together they turned Melle into a human robot. We talked to Kaegi about his interests and his motivation for creating the performance Uncanny Valley.

As introduction: Can you tell us something about your career?

My first job was as a journalist. Then I studied a bit of philosophy, visual arts and theatre - but I have no diploma. Sounds like a failure…

What was your motivation to work in performing arts?
I appreciate the attention span of watchers as opposed to the laid-back visual arts audience.

What do you think about the role of theatre and dance in society?
Well, performing arts are a very social tool to communicate as they bring people together in the moment it happens.

What was your motivation to create Uncanny Valley?
More and more we are treated by bots. Somebody may have even written an algorithm that answers this kind of interviews and it would be hard to prove it was not me answering your questions.

After working with many ‘experts of everyday life or of their own life’ you work now with a humanoid as performer. Why did you choose to do so?
I wondered if people can empathize with a thing.

Why is he a copy of Thomas Melle?
He has written this incredible book where he very honestly talks about his bipolarity in a very philosophical way. And when we started talking about replacing him in the public sphere he was very interested as this would allow him to overcome certain instabilities he experiences maybe more strongly than other persons.

How did you experience working with Thomas Melle?
It was my first collaboration with an author - and this was a very inspiring experience - Thomas was very open to my suggestions - and brought in a lot of very productive ideas.

What insights did you gain by creating a humanoid?
I started to doubt that our behaviors are not preprogrammed.

I’ve noticed your performances have discussed delicate subjects, such as death and war. Why did technology become your next interest?
This is not a project about technology. Producing a copy of a human being makes you look very closely at the original, at the human being, at our own decision processes. Our gestures, our reactions, our codes.

What would you be today, if you hadn’t become a performance maker?
I was always very interested in Physics. I could imagine myself inventing theories about invisible particles..

What is your biggest artistic dream to achieve?
Retirement.

What are you working on right now?
I am rehearsing a piece with Cuban performers - very unplugged. It’s fun to be working with humans - you don’t need to invent their gestures from scratch.And we are working on an immersive film-installation for a museum and on a large-scale outdoors commission called Utopolis…

Do you have any advice to share with starting artists?
Trust others. Go beyond your bubble!


Uncanny Valley can be seen 23 May, 24 May and 25 May in Theater Kikker, Grote Zaal. More information and tickets, check this page.

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SPRING Performing Arts Festival is calling (young) artists and students within the field of performing arts, dramaturges, journalists, architects, directors, and editors for the masterclasses and SPRING Intensive of SPRING Academy 2019. 

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