On tour in Finland

Photo: Tanwa Srisong, Luckan

I’ve been on a ten day tour in Finland with Nyxxx and the show Hör så tyst det är, directed by me and Ebba Petrén. The tour was organized by Assitej Finland through the Bravo!-festival and I’m happy we have been able to show the work in Swedish as well as Finnish. This is the second time we go to Finland on tour, last time Kulturcentrum Hanaholmen invited us to do the old best-seller Din inre röst for Swedish speaking kids. It’s always a pleasure to travel across the pond to our neighbor in the east and it will not be long until I go back again for the Nordic larp festival Solmukohta that is hosted in Tampere this year.

Grant received from The Church of Sweden

Uppsala domkyrka, December 4th 2023

We (Gabriel Widing & Áron Birtalan) are excited to announce that our project 𝑳𝒐𝒗𝒆’𝒔 𝑺𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒏 𝑵𝒂𝒎𝒆𝒔 is one of the awardees for The Church of Sweden’s cultural prize in 2023. The award consists of a grant that will help us in the initial stage of the project, studying, rehearsing, wayward dreaming.

⛓️ ✨ 🪨 🔥 🌱 ⛲ 🌀

We plan to make Love’s Seven Names a participatory piece that guides audiences through a series of collective contemplations, inspired by the poem of the same name*, by the 13th-century Beguine mystic Hadewijch. Part erotic lovesong, part theological treatise, 7 Names is a dazzling piece of poetry, whose secretive language can be seen as both a manyfold encounter with the mystical bodies of God, and as a clandestine manual for spiritual techniques that mix more accepted forms of piety with some seriously daring stuff, bordering on magical practices.

By the 1300s, the Church’s attitude towards Beguine women’s communities and their ‘DIY Catholicism’ became more and more hostile. Communities were closed, and women were forced to give up their way of life for fear of punishment. A fellow Beguine, the French Marguerite Porete was sentenced to die for refusing to renounce her book and mystical manual, The Mirror of Simple Souls.

The story of the Beguines ties into a long history of bodies and practices marginalised, silenced and killed by the religious powers that be. In the voices persecuting Beguines, one hears echoes of orthodox Christianity waging wars upon Gnostic and Cathar heresies in the centuries before Hadewijch; as well as the horrors of the witch trials at the hands of both Catholic and Protestant patriarchies in the centuries following. Collaborating on this project with a mainline church body presents a challenge that we are both yet to live through, and at once feel an urgency to take on. We thank the Church of Sweden for trusting us as autonomous artists, opening a dialogue without expecting anyone to ‘clean things up’. Looking forward to what next year brings.

Inferno speed date

Hands and mouths
Visuals from Inferno Speed date

Together with Nea Landin I have designed and coded a speed date web app. It was commissioned for Kulturnatten (Museums’ night) at Kulturhuset Stadsteatern. Inspiration came from Dante’s Divine Comedy, where the protagonist wander through the different circles in Hell. The participant start off by choosing what deadly sin they are under the influence of. That will assign them to a crew of sinners with the same “weakness” in common. After that they will go on four random dates and reassemble with their group a few times in between.

The gate to hell
. . .abandon all hope, you who enter here.

At Kulturhuset Stadsteatern

At Kulturhuset we run the speed date four times in an evening for 20-30 participants per showing. The dating is not just about romantic interest. It might as well be about meeting new people. We got some valuable feedback and look forward to develop the design. Photos below by Joakim Rindå.

Speed date in action
The makers of the speed date
Gabriel & Nea

If you are interested in a speed date, get in touch! It would work well as conference opener or at a festival.

The envious dog
The app follows the medieval iconography, where every sin is represented by an animal. Envy is represented by a dog.

Datenight på domens dag (Kulturnatten, Kulturhuset)

Bild från prototyp

På Kulturnatten, 22 april, 2023 blir det ny-designad, ny-kodad speeddate på Kulturhuset i Stockholm

Kom med på en infernalisk speed-date och lär känna nya vänner, älskare och småjävlar. Din mobil (detta djävulens påfund) kommer att leda dig och de andra förtappade själarna på plats genom en serie rykande möten och situationer. Speed-daten är skapad och leds av koreografen Nea Landin och regissören Gabriel Widing.

  • 19:00, 20:00, 22:00 och 23:00, Panorama
Bild: Erica Jacobson

Mer information om hur du bokar din gratisbiljett kommer inom kort. Först till kvarn! Platserna är begränsade.

Barpianist:  Panayot ”Pancho” Mihaylov

THE IMAGINING BODY: Freestanding course at SKH

Applications are open for a freestanding 7.5p course at Uniarts/SKH that I will put together and teach together with Áron Birtalan. It’s the first time I have the opportunity to create an entire course from scratch on university level and I think these five weeks will be great. If you are active in any performative context consider applying and join us.

Photo: Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė, YGRG14X: reading with the single hand, 2018. Video still. Courtesy of the Artists.

The course offers you a practical and theoretical intro to the relationships between Imagination, Embodiment, and Interface Technologies in artistic practices. You will be invited to partake in an experimental environment under influence of sci-fi, mystical visions and esoteric magic.

How does imagination shape us and the things we create? Can imagination belong to anyone at all? Is imagination limited to images? How does imagination influence us as bodies? How can imagination become a body? How does the body imagine?

In this course we will look at how these questions are explored in science fiction, media studies, religion and magical practices: From visionary medieval mystics to XX. century ritual cinema, and to techno-queer spells for the end of the Anthropocene. We will bring their ways of working into the studio to see how they can shape artistic practice and thought. Special attention is given to how “technologies of imagination” influence bodily experience in both creator and audience.

This course is open to participants from all artistic disciplines and interests. We encourage you to be open to making, discussing and experiencing art in ways that may seem unusual at first.

Our approach is hands-on and theoretical at once. We believe that on-the-floor engagement and critical thought do not exclude each other, but unfold from one another.


Rest in peace Keith Johnstone

I just heard that the improvisation guru Keith Johnstone (1933 – 2023) passed away. He visited Stockholm occasionally and worked with Susan Osten and others, which also meant that his work was translated and published in Swedish. I think his work was absolutely fundamental to bridge the world of games and theater and thereby making what we now know as nordic live action roleplay possible. The book Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre (1989) helped me and many other larp organizers and participants in late 90ths to understand social status in play, masks and physical improvisation, as well as basic ideas about what kind of improvisation that enables collective storytelling in a group of participants. 

Teaching Processing at BTH

Processing example

I’ve spent 3 weeks at Blekinge institute of technology, teaching coding to Digital Image students. I’ve been using Processing, which was designed by MIT to make interactive graphics, animations, and multimedia projects. One advantage of using Processing to teach coding is its simplicity. Processing is built on the Java programming language, but it has a simpler syntax and a a lot of built-in functions for visuals and geometry, making it easy for students to get started. Also, it’s an open-source tool, meaning that students can use it for free, and there are plenty of resources and tutorials to help them get started. The visual aspect of Processing helps students to see the results of their code immediately, which builds motivation and keep them engaged. It’s a pleasure to introduce students to generative image making and let them to develop creativity through code. There are things you could do that you would never even come up with within the frames of Photoshop or equivalent tools.

Mobilized and Control game prototypes at Stockholm scenario festival

I went to Stockholm Scenario Festival this week and played a prototype of Mobilized and a new prototype with the working title Control Game (both made in collaboration with Nea Landin). It’s always great to see new material in the hands of larpers and I got great feedback.

Players and avatars in the Control Game.

Anteckningar från en kurs i dockteater

Jag tänker nu på dockan som ett gränssnitt mellan aktör och publik. Dockan är ett medierande objekt som befinner sig någonstans mellan aktörens hand eller kropp och publikens blick. På det sättet är den också granne med mask. I skuggteatern behövs även ljus och duk för att dockan ska framträda. Dockans och skuggteaterns historia är lång och vindlande. I det förmoderna användes skuggteater både i grottor och senare med tältduken som fond. Dockan har fått agera ställföreträdare för människornas gudar. Den har fungerat som avatar, som en kroppslig representation för olika gestalter i de polyteistiska religionerna. Men den dyker även upp i kristenheten i altarskåp, krubbor och Mariafigurer. Och den försvinner inte under moderniteten. Snarare kliver den fram. Både genom nytt inflytande från Japan och koloniserade länder. Men också genom ett intresse för att föra samman konst, teknik och vetenskap. Dockan blir modern, den samsas med på scenen med skådespelare och andra objekt. Dockans rena och avskalade uttryck blir till ideal även för skådespeleri och dans. 

Vi talade ofta på kursen om att dockan kunde vara död eller levande. Vissa rörelser, manipulationer, handhavanden dödar dockan. Den blir till ett ting. Denna spänning mellan det döda och det levande finns hela tiden närvarande i dockteatern. Under festivalen på Pop Up Puppets Kulturhuset konfronterades vi om och om igen med döda och odöda kroppar. I Dracula kollapsar dockkropparna och vaknar åter till liv av omhändertagande händer. I Big boys don’t cry öppnas föreställningen med ett krig mellan actionfigurer som en efter en dödas till de ligger i en stor hög. En hög av dockkroppar ligger också på trägolvet i The house by the lake.

Efter kursen känner jag att dockteatern lämpar sig särskilt till existentiella frågor. Kanske känner vi igen oss i dockorna på detta självklara sätt. Vi människor har också kroppar som alltid riskerar att dö, att bli till objekt. Och vi behöver också bli sedda, handhållna och omhändertagna för att hålla oss vid liv.