Theatre of Hybrid Automata

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Theatre of Hybrid Automata was an event, a sequel to 1992's Pioneers of Electronic Art (1992), with Woody Vasulka held in 1993 in Brno.

In years 1993 - 1994 Faculty of Fine Arts in Brno became first grants on "Multimedia interaction in digitalized environment" and "Integration of modern ecoculture technologies", from which was built local computer network and few PCs. In 1993 Atelier Video-Multimedia-Performance organised second exhibition within INVEX BVV fair (pavilon VW), where Woody Vasulka explored „new epistemological space" (field of interaction between participants and technology) in his installation Theater of Hybrid Automata'. (Source - translated).

The Theater of Hybrid Automata is a physical construction containing a pool of enlightened interactive tools. In its present state, it possesses the ability to communicate through the recognition and synthesis of speech, through vocalizations, through the actions of musical instruments, lights, and sounds, and by robotic response. A singular feature of the Theater is its complete internal interactivity-a single gesture in space can influence any other element in the system. In an attempt to extend the vocabulary of this newly-devised interactive environment, I must construct an extremely sensitive and articulate interface between a live performer and the machine, which would be based on a physical reading of the performer's body. I have been working with actor Tim Thompson, who is well-qualified for such an engagement, and I have located the necessary hardware and needed components for the creation of an undergarment to monitor the body. I want to set up a series of experiments in space to study the voluntary and involuntary gestural and spasmodic data in order to integrate it into the continuously-expanding dramatic protocol of the Theater as a whole. (Source)

Woody Vasulka uses the "Lightning", a musical instrument developed by Donald Buchla. In this ongoing project begun in 1985, Woody combines hardware with sophisticated software for processing real-time images. The project aims to develop complex interfaces between the viewer/performer and technologies and to establish ways to exchange information between machines. Epistemological concerns underlie the creation of this work. Here, Woody explores the disappearance of the body in a virtual space. Paradoxically, the installation suggests an intense relationship between synthetic images and the materiality of the devices generating them.

The project to construct an automated theatre began in 1985 when Steina, Woody and the singer Joan La Barbara used an interface to activate, in real time, the audio and video data stored on a computer hard disk (see Voice Windows (1986)). Heartened by these initial experiments, Woody teamed up with David Dunn to build the scenographic elements for a performance by La Barbara called Events from the Elsewhere (1990). Most of the technological components from this piece were later recycled for Theatre of Hybrid Automata.

This hybrid work, which serves as both a theatre set and an installation, has taken different shapes over the years depending on the exhibition space used. Essentially, the work covers a cubic area defined by targets and screens placed along its edges. In its centre, a gyroscope fitted with a video lens is programmed to move on a 360-degree axis in every direction. The device moves according to two modes: pointer mode (the camera heads toward zones predetermined by the computer) and positioning mode (sensors pick up digital coordinates as they randomly scan the space). The sensors route the data to a voice-recognition device, which records and translates the information so that a synthesized voice can announce the direction the gyroscope's lens is pointing toward (north, south, east, west). With help from the MIDI protocol, a computer runs the components of this environment in real time and controls the built-in functions of a laser-disc player. Projectors emit video images of the surrounding space captured by the video head, as well as a 3-D animation that converges with the gyroscope's movements. (Source)

As early as Autumn 1992 Czechs welcomed Woody and Steina Vašulka to Květná Street. Woody presented their interactive anthology, designed for Ars Electronica "Pioneers of Electronic Art", on laser discs for the first time in the Czech Republic, and Steina performed with her electronic violin which controlled a video projecti on. The enthusiasm of new possibilities led Woody to the idea of establishing a European experimental base in Květná Street, in addition to his laboratory in Santa Fe. In 1993 he relocated part of his equipment here with Bruce Hamilton, his assistant whom he paid from his own resources, laying the foundation for the Multimedia Laboratory as a research center. Never the less, in 1993, using the Multimedia Laboratory, he completed and presented the "Theater of the Hybrid Automata" at the INVEX trade fair. (Source)

Modified DENX .MOT file (Linux Instruction extension) used for this project