In conversation with Lundahl & Seitl at IAC

Christer Lundahl, Martina Seitl, Gabriel Widing
Christer Lundahl, Martina Seitl, Gabriel Widing

Inter Arts Center “a platform for artistic research and experimentation” are very into games and play these days. Me and Nea Landin performed Mobilized there at Immersive days #3: Agents in Play. In the aftermaths i had the pleasure of giving a short improvised talk and enter a dialogue with Christer Lundahl and Martina Seitl.


MOBILIZED: An essay pretending to be a game

Mobilized is a participatory performance exploring the power and potential of the smart phone. Rather than asking you to turn it off when entering the theatre, we ask you to keep it ready for use. Your phone will be the portal that takes you and other audience members into the constructed reality of the piece. The format is based on simple instructions and choices that appear on your screen through text, images and sound. The instructions shape different situations and collective movements. The piece is 45 min long and will be performed in English.


Made by: Nea Landin & Gabriel Widing

Sound design: Scott Cazan

Supported by: The Swedish Arts Grants Committee, DansPlats Skog, Site Sweden, Inter Arts Center, Nyxxx


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.


The Unquiet Veil in Amsterdam

I will once again game master Áron Birtalan’s scenario The Unquiet Veil. This time at DAS in Amsterdam.

The Unquiet Veil is a low-key role-playing experience / fictional workshop where players are guided through playful and mystical activities in which they develop their own practice of ‘everyday death magick’, make a pact with an imaginary entity, and create a spellbook that they take with themselves after the event.

Mobiliserad: work in progress-visning på Alternativfesten

Detta är en workshop/visning där din mobil leder dig in i rörelse tillsammans med de andra deltagarna. I denna prototyp undersöker vi de täta förbindelser som finns mellan maskiner och människokroppar. “Mobiliserad” föreslår ett deltagarbaserat utforskande av mobilens potential för interaktion, beslutsfattande, rörelse och kollektivt handlande. Instruktionerna kan vara individuella eller gemensamma, rytmiserade eller slumpmässiga. Vi genererar koreografiska strukturer, musik-scores, högläsningsmaterial, repliker och rörelseprompts. Upplevelsen uppstår ur mötet mellan maskin, individ och grupp.

Inga förkunskaper krävs för att delta. Du behöver dock ta med en egen smartphone med hörlurar.

Konstnärerna bakom projektet:
Nea Landin är dansare, performer och konstnär. Nea utforskar koreografi som expanderat koncept, ofta i kombination med andra konstformer som kod, text och skulptur. Nea var kulturstipendiat inom dans och crossmedia i Gävleborg 2021.

Gabriel Widing är regissör och speldesigner. Hans praktik kretsar kring att utveckla metoder för rollspels- och deltagarbaserade performativa situationer, till exempel genom kollektivt skrivande, spel och performance.

The Unquiet Veil at A thinking practice

A Thinking Practice is a practice based symposium addressing collective learning processes in relation to listening, asymmetries, filth, not-knowing and desire. We long for a space to think, feel, organize and practice with others. A space where we, despite knowing that we won’t find any simple solutions, engage with each other in an unknown future.

The symposium is initiated from an interest in working collectively, from the perspective of the fields of choreography and urban planning. We believe that in times of urgencies, in moments of doubt, in seconds of fear, we must gather and think. And thinking does not mean big Thought, but a practice which involves every nerve and every relation. A thinking that involves paying attention to that which is already there in order to imagine what could be. We notice each other because we are at stake to each other.

The focus of the symposium is to practically investigate forms of thinking. We believe that all thoughts are thought from somewhere – in relation to a practice and to thoughts previously thought. We therefore see that how we think is crucial for what we think. Through which practices can we attune ourselves to listen for that which we do not already know? What practices of attention help us to be available for others, for the not-understandable, for the opaque? And how can we encourage each other to think, in all its multitude of practices, in order to create collective change?

PRESENTING AT THE SYMPOSIUM Eduardo Abrantes, Juli Apponen, Eleanor Bauer, Áron Birtalan, Åsa Bjerndell, Amy Boulton, Oda Brekke, Xiyao Chen, Sebastian Dahlqvist, Rosa Danenberg, Laressa Dickey, Disorder, Darya Efrat, Anna Enström, Benj Gerdes, Tiril Hasselknippe, Sara Kaaman, Elke Krasny, Carmen Lael Hines, Ying-Tzu Lin, Pedram Nasouri, Chrysa Parkinson, Kibandu Pello-Esso, Sophia Persson, Pontus Pettersson, Tuija Roberntz, Tove Salmgren, Alexis Steeves, Ellen Söderhult, Cara Tolmie, Ana Vujanovic, Gabriel Widing, Andros Zins-Browne, Jenny Övergaard

PRACTICAL INFORMATION The symposium takes place at Hägerstensåsens Medborgarhus at 10-17 on the 10-11th of June. Detailed program will be announced shortly. Participation is free and a detailed program will soon be presented. Register at:

THE UNQUIET VEIL – A Living Person’s Guide to Death Magick in Four Unfinished Songs

I will co-host this scenario with its maker Áron Birtalan.

The Unquiet Veil is a low-key role-playing experience / fictional workshop where players are guided through playful and mystical activities in which they develop their own practice of ‘everyday death magick’, make a pact with an imaginary entity, and create a spellbook that they take with themselves after the event.

The experience brings together pretend-play magick, electronic music, office protocols and playful more-than-human imagination. It also features a synthesizer that casts spells, a band of singing undertakers and lots of metaphysical bureaucracy.

How to go out of body & fuck with yourself

This is a rewrite of a blogpost published in swedish before. I made it for Inpex 2012 edition of the infamous silver bible aka. The Swedish Dance History vol. 4. It’s situated in the very end of the book btw.


What happens to our capacities to look and see when our senses are dominated by an image world? Who can we become? Video glasses are just about to hit consumer markets (although still pricy and bulky). Who knows if it will be used in everyday life, but anyhow it could definitely be a tool for artistic development. So let’s talk about the possibilities of enfolding visual immersion.

James Cameron, famous for for blockbusters such as Titanic and Avatar and a lot of crap had some interesting ideas too. To his merits one could mention the script for the Terminator movies as well as the commercial failure Strange Days (1996). It’s not a good movie, but it should concern us.

rodney-kingLA in flames

My guess is that Strange Days was written in the backwash of the LA riots in 1992, which followed a well known dramaturgy (frequently replayed during the uprisings in Europe as well as the Arab world in recent years). Four white cops beat up a black guy. They are all declared innocent by a white jury. An “amateur photographer” (so retro I know) captured the whole thing, which made the reality of the situation very obvious. The anger that erupted led to a wave of revolt, looting and general mayhem. 53 persons where killed during the riots, many of them shot by police and military forces. (Oh, memory is short.)

The LA riots in many ways foregoes the protest movements that grew during the nineties, such as the globalization movement. When state violence is visualized in such an inevitable way revolt will follow. The images are verification of a common experience of suppression, that can be shared through the imagery. Cameron probably had some presumptions because he set Strange Days in the future. More precisely the fateful night of new years eve 1999, at the dawn of a new millennia (#1 anti-climax of our lives). LA, which is also the stage of the movie, is depicted in a carnevalesque state of emergency.


“This is not like TV only better”

At the center of the action is a new media technology circulating on the black market. The tech makes it possible to record short clips (think Youtube), containing all the sensory experiences that a person have when the recording happens. By mounting a helmet that sends sensory stimuli directly into ones brain anyone can relive or re-experience the same event from within.

The clip that sparks the plot contains a recording of a police assault as discussed above. Another clip was shot during a robbery and ends when the robber in a hitchcockian manner falls from a roof – the difference being that this time we follow the subjective gaze all the way down – POV.

I thought Strange Days was more or less forgotten, but when I checked for it in my book shelfs it shows up here and there. Bolter and Grusin describes the fictional media technology pretty well in Remediation:

“This is not like TV only better,” says Lenny Nero in the futuristic film StrangeDays. “This is life. It’s a piece of somebody’s life. Pure and uncut, straight from the cerebral cortex. You’re there. You’re doing it, seeing it, hearing it . . . feeling it.” Lenny is touting to a potential customer a technological wonder called “the wire.” When the user places the device over her head, its sensors make contact with the perceptual centers in her brain. In its recording mode, the wire captures the sense-perceptions of the wearer; in its playback mode, it delivers these recorded perceptions to the wearer. If the ultimate purpose of media is indeed to transfer sense experiences from one person to another, the wire threatens to make all media obsolete. Lenny mentions television, but the same critique would seem to apply to books, paintings, photographs, film, and so on. The wire bypasses all forms of mediation and transmits directly from one consciousness to another.

The media thus conceals itself, experience seems instant, what Bolter and Grusin call immediacy. Immediacy is described in relation to an opposing mode: hypermediacy, where the medium presents its own mediumship, such as when the camera is revealed as a camera by blur or image distortion. Oddly enough, hypermedia seems to be an equally successful strategy to create credible and compelling images, but that’s a parenthesis in this context.


Abuse turned inside-out

The sensory clips in Strange Days are raw, uncut and often violent or erotic. They are recorded on cassettes susceptibly MiniDisc-looking. There’s a really disgusting scene that is hard to rid off your mind. A man put a recording device on himself and a playback device on a woman, then he ties and rapes her. She looks at her body from the outside and how he approaches it. She can also feel how he is enjoying the abuse. Thus, she becomes co-driver in the body of the raper, and is forced to enjoy the situation through him. This makes the abuse even worse.


This gap, to see yourself from the outside, to be a body that has disconnected from the consciousness is of course a daunting and exciting condition that obviously meet certain trends in media development, but in Strange Days it is taken to its extreme. My hacker friend Leo told me about how the shady group Hack Canada experimented with relatively simple techniques experimented to re-stage the setup.

Telepresence and wetware hacking

single-modeHC have a section where they describe various attempts to hack the brain, one of them is TelePresence Bi-Autoerotic Intercourse:

Remember that scene in the movie Strange Days where the killer used some bizarre futuristic neural recorder technology to transmit what he saw and felt to his victim as he raped and killed her? So from her perspective it was like she was raping and killing herself, and getting-off on the act. Well, there won’t be any rape or killing here, but I realized I had all the gear kicking around to do something similar to this. Using a Virtual Reality Head Mounted Display and a miniature video camera, a person can see themself having sex from their partners’ perspective. Telepresence Bi-Autoerotic Intercourse… phuck yourself.

In the above setup, one can visually experience how it is to fuck with oneself while physically staying in ones own body. The hacker crew underlines that the kick is all about moving the consciousness out of ones own body.

Foremost, the sensation of telepresence when viewed through an HMD is quite mind-blowing. It’s as if you have left your body. The disembodied feeling is further complicated upon seeing oneself from another person’s perspective. When the camera wearer holds their arms out and starts coming at you, and touching you, ones mind really takes a twist. The other persons arms seem like your own, and suddenly you feel very vulnerable and trapped, it’s like assaulting yourself and you can do nothing about it. Very disorienting. Don’t get me wrong, it is great fun and great entertainment.

The setup can also be doubled, so that both parties see the situation from each other’s perspective:


Anyway, back to the sexual experience. Holding the Camera and viewing from a variety of disembodied third person perspectives is very stimulating and unique. Many intriguing variations are possible and it makes for good foreplay since regular forms of foreplay are restricted by the bulkiness of the HMD. Now, as far as how stimulating you will find all of this depends largely on your intellectual openess and your level of priggishness.

There are not many artists who have started working in this direction yet. An exception I found was Me and the Machine by Sam Pearson and Clara García Fraile. They made a nine-minute film as seen through video glasses and simultaneously “portrayed” sensory by a dancer. How well it works is hard to see from the documentation. Perhaps the gap between the viewer’s movements and camera movements are too big to fool the brain, but our mind is generally good in making sense out of diverse input.

Well, we can only find out by starting to experiment with it. In short: Turn on, tune in, drop out.

Working with avatars at PAF

Summer is slowly fading away and I haven’t written here since May, which is a shame because plenty of interesting things has been going on.

This week me and Ebba Petrén has had the fantastic opportunity to go to Performing Arts Forum. We have a generous grant from The Swedish Arts Grant Committee to be able to do research on the avatar formats. The last week we’ve been thinking about what we have done so far and explored new ideas on what is possible to do within the avatar frame – humans being directed by a voice, turning them into something else, hybrids between man and machine.

First of all I want to say that this place is amazing. I was here last year to attend the Agora Seminars and I have had the intention to come back ever since. Just have a look of the village S:t Erme as it emerge from my bedroom window tonight:

Here are a couple of the ideas that we’ve been working with, I’ll probably get back with more later …

Switching positions

The idea is to explore what happens when you change into an avatar and the intention to do so. In the most simple iteration one person (human) has a conversation with anouther one who wear headphones and reciev instructions (avatar). When the avatar stretch its hand up (following an instruction, of course) the human can chose to take its position. The avatar can never chose to be a human, but the human can chose to turn herself into an avatar.

We did a recording where the avatar is asking questions and then making interruptions. Encouraging the human to talk, but not really responding in a proper way.

We also tried out a “Round Robin” structure with 4 avatar tracks and a group of audience members, who could chose to take the headphones during certain circumstances. The curiosity on behalf of the audience was high and everyone wanted to become avatars at some point.

We have a lot more ideas on how avatar-human interaction could work out that we didn’t have the possibility to try out in practise yet. It could be an avatar hosting seance, initiating a game or introducing conversational topics in a social situation.

Here is the studio we’ve been working in with the simple set up for the 4-avatar switching test.

Phone call piece

Here is a new idea of a piece where the audience give their phone numbers to us when they enter the performance. We have a dramaturgy, a railroaded set of actions that the audience members execute/perform by getting phone call instructions, wishes, begs from the operators, a kind of call center. This would not really be avatarisation, there would freedom to say no to negotiate or say no to an instruction. The operators/game masters are seated in a call center, a room near by, above them or in the same room but behind a window.

“Excuse me, could you help us by…”
“There is a camera, can you make the documentation of this piece?”
“Can you take responsibility for …”

This way we could produce an aesthetizised social dynamic in the room.

Nypremiär och ny kritik av Avatarvaro

Nu har vi spelat AvatarvaroInkonst i Malmö. Det har varit kul att jobba här och vi har fått bra support från Helena, Daniel och Ellinor på plats. Alla fem föreställningar blev utsålda. Alex Tenghamn, som fotograferar åt Inkonst tog några bilder under genrepet:


Det har kommit en del press på föreställningen. Jag har tagit mig friheten att lägga upp Skånes frias artikel av Abigail Sykes i sin helhet. Den kom före premiären och innehållen intervju med Ebba:

Obs bilden högst upp till höger togs inte av mig utan av Jenny Simm.

Johanna Dikert från kulturnätveket Konstpretton har skrivit en fin recension med den fantastiska rubriken “Njutningslysten otrygghet” som direkt placerar den egna kroppen i centrum:

Vi som ska delta i kvällens spel blir indelade i mindre grupper. Vi står utanför ett rum och väntar på att det ska börja. Jag känner mig pirrig. Stämningen är lite spänd, de flesta tittar i golvet eller in i en vägg. Alla är måna om sin integritet och ingen söker kontakt med någon annan. Sådär svenskt som det brukar vara, vi kunde lika gärna stå i en hiss.

Hon beskriver även resan in i avatarvaron som en socialiseringsprocess och ställer sig den klassiska Bladerunner-frågan: “Vad är då skillnaden mellan en människa och en avatar?”

Även Tidningen Kulturen, som numera är en nättidning, var på plats. Hanna Bäckström skriver under rubriken “Meditation över den gemensamma sårbarheten” och hennes läsning av verket ligger ganska nära de förslag vi hade i programmet.

Även om vi deltar i en väldigt styrd process finns utrymme att på samma gång försiktigt iaktta och reflektera över skeendena, vilket både är behagligt och, vill jag hävda, en förutsättning för att projektet ska vara riktigt meningsfullt. Samtidigt är jagets utsuddade konturer en viktig del av upplevelsen. Upplevelsen ger en lugn känsla av närvaro då jag, som om det vore en meditationssession, försöker släppa mina egna impulser och istället hänge min kropp åt den delade existensen.

När jag så lyder order och stundtals reflekterar på samma gång, tänker jag på vilken form av gemenskap som uppstår när vi upphör att vara individer tillsammans och när jag vet att jag har en roll att spela i interaktionen med de andra. Det blir både intimt och opersonligt på samma gång när min position står i direkt relation till de andras.

Etik eller estetik?

Sist men inte minst (antagligen flest läsare) kom en recension från Sydsvenska dagbladet under rubriken “Viljan satt ur spel”. Jag skulle på något vis vilja gå i svaromål i relation till Boel Gerells kritik. Jag vet att det är vanskligt att som konstnär ge sina kritiker kritik, men att försöka upprätthålla en autonomi mellan verkande och kritik känns också passé. Konstnärer och kritiker har gemensamt intresse i att undersöka hur verk griper in i våra liv och varför det är viktigt. Boel ägnar första halvan av recensionen åt att placera in Avatarvaro i en trend som går ut på att fråga “När tar den fria viljan emot och tvingar oss att sätta oss upp emot reglerna?”:

Teater Republique och Signa undersökte publikens tolerans av våld i ”Salò” för något år sedan och kollektivet Arena Baubo följde upp med föreställningen ”Kulla-Gulla, Fassbinder och jag” som utsatte publiken för möjligheten att våldet och övergreppen de såg på scenen var ”på riktigt”.

Det är intressant att jämföra vårt verk med de ovanstående. Men det är inte den frågan Boel ställer som vi intresserat oss för i Avatarvaro och vi har en helt annan strategi för att närma oss publiken än vad Signa och Arena Baubo begagnat sig av. De ägnar sig åt att osäkra publikkontraktet på ett sätt som jag tycker är problematiskt. Utforskandet av en ny relation mellan scen och salong blir nämligen ensidigt när bara de som genomför verket vet vad det är som gäller, på vilka villkor som föreställningen genomförs. Boel tar även upp “dokuteater”:

… som tillgriper allt grövre medel för att få oss att reagera, som riktar strålkastarna mot publiken och gör vår reaktion till huvudsaken. Kroppsvätskor som stänker, bajskorvar som läggs på mattan. På riktigt.

Avatarvaro verkar inte alls med en sådan arsenal. Tvärtom är det väldigt ambient i sin ton och upplevelsen skapas med subtila medier. Inga chocker, inga abjekt, inga grova medel. Jag har själv skrivit skrivit kritiskt om till exempel Arena Baubo i denna föreläsning som frågar sig “Hur öppnar vi konsten och kulturen för aktivt deltagande?”

… om överenskommelsen eller kontraktet inte tas förgivet blir det ofta ännu värre eftersom överskridande former inom teatern tyvärr är alltför välbekanta: överraskning, provokation och oklara vilkor. Teatern blir därmed än mer auktoritär och drar sig inte ens för att släpa upp ofrivilliga publikmedlemmar på scenen.

Fylleframträdandet på Inkonst, som jag visserligen inte är särskillt insatt i, är väll ett ganska bra exempel på det. (Kullagulla, Fassbinder och jag)

För mig har sådana praktiker inte mycket med deltagande att skaffa. Deltagande kräver ömsesidighet och förtroende, det underlättas av spelregler och tydliga ramar, men försvåras av plötsliga påhopp.

Det är märkligt att deltagande ofta kopplas samman med någon form av våld. Det är egentligen bara två stycken som direkt handlar om vårt verk och det är där det blir som mest snett:

Och det skulle kunna vara farligt, skulle kunna snudda vid något riktigt riskabelt men stannar vid just ett experiment, i goda vänners lag. Det närmaste ett övergrepp vi kommer är när vi ombeds stå nära en främling, tillräckligt för att kroppsvärmen ska kännas.

Ok, men varför förväntar sig kritikern ett övergrepp? Det finns ingenting i vår inbjudan som föreslår att vi ska sätta publiken i en situation som den upplever som ett övergrepp. De handlingar som man gör som avatar är sånt vi tror skulle kunna vara spännande, intressant, kittlande, meditativt ibland dramatiskt. Uppenbarligen räcker inte det.

Kroppen som en muskel som agerar på kommando, töjs allt längre tills något tar emot. För det tar väl emot, någonstans? Riktigt nära det verkligt angelägna kommer Avatarvaro inte, nöjer sig med leken och det är synd. Någonstans hade jag velat känna faran i att förlora kontrollen, risken jag löper när jag väljer att lyda och slutar tänka själv.

Varför måste det “ta emot”  för att bli “verkligt angeläget”? Avatarvaro är inte ett psykologiskt lydnadsexperiment som ska testa besökarnas etiska ramar. Verkets styrka och intresse ligger inte i att utmana besökarens etiska gränser. Vi vill utforska nya typer av sensibilitet inför kroppen, medvetandet och det sociala samspelet. Den etiska dimensionen är helt underordnad en estetisk, sinnlig led.

Det handlar om att rikta seendet, skapa begär, hitta glapp mellan intention och handlande. Och ja det är en lek, men det är inte negativt laddat i min värld.

Jag tror att allt det Boel söker skulle gå att iscensättas i ett annat verk, ett verk som begår övergrepp, tänjer gränser, där kroppsvätskor stänker och som “tvingar oss att sätta oss upp emot reglerna”, men det är verkligen inte det verk som vi skapat. Det hade varit mer intressant att läsa en kritik av vad vi gör än vad vi inte gör.

Kanske tänker lite mer på detta senare …