Electronic Purgatory, a multimedia for the stage by Kristi Allik and Robert Mulder.


robert c f mulder


kristi a allik


Welcome to Electronic Purgatory, a contemporary digital multiple reality theatre..

As a dramatic development, Electronic Purgatory finds itself somewhere between Dante Alighieri and Stephen Hawking. The multi-dimensionality of the work hints at several levels of reality, within this framework a theatre audience is guided through a thoroughly contemporary purgatory, a Dante-esque inferno and, as a final destiny, contemplates the futures of paradise.

Kristi Allik in the Purgatory section of Electronic Purgatory.
Kristi Allik performing in Electronic Purgatory

"In the wildness of the inferno the human spirit detaches itself from the body, tortured by its own awareness. The body remains chained up in a torn, chaotic landscape. It is only paradise which makes the balance between metaphysical  and the quantum-physical forces possible". The work utilizes computer generated music, imagery, and projections which are controlled live by the on-stage performers by means of an interactive virtual reality computer system.

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Kristi Allik in the "Heaven" section of Electronic Purgatory. Photo: Robert MulderElectronic Purgatory is a digital Music theatre composition. Digital Music-Theatre, a form of multi-disciplinary theatre in which traditional staging agents such as sets, props, stagehands, and technicians have been replaced with electroacoustic instruments, and a completely computer generated and controlled stage environment; i.e. a virtual set, virtual technicians and virtual orchestra.

All the constituents in Electronic Purgatory are therefore generated and/or controlled in real-time by the performers on the stage by means of an interactive multi-computer network, no audio and video tape playback or other recording medium is used during the performance.
Since all visual and aural elements are generated, realized and manipulated "live", the staging of Electronic Purgatory requires a considerable array of hardware to accomplish the real time creation and control of all video and audio elements.

The image tapestry is generated by means of two video projectors attached to a video computer, the same computer by means of a video camera, functions as the collision detection system.
Audio is created by the music computer which runs several music software programs. The resulting MIDI signal is attached to assorted MIDI driven synthesizers.

Electronic Purgatory is inspired by the almost metaphysical quality of contemporary quantum physics, it borrows currently popular video grammar as found in Super Mario Brothers in the actual execution. The artists have cast the physical development of the work along a structural form first used by Dante Alighiere for the Divine Comedy.

Electronic Purgatory, although continuous in performance, is constructed in four movements. Alpha, the first movement has a genesis-like quality. In this movement performers shape the primordial "soup-of-all-possibilities" into perdurable aural and visual forms. In the following section, Purgatorium, the performers seem to be placed within the rule-set of a contemporary video game, without knowing the rules or the object of the game. The third section, Inferno, reveals the gradual dissolution of the delicate interdependent layers of the corporeal and the spiritual. The work concludes with Paradiso, were the performers encounter a completely cybernetic world in which all elements, visual and aural are under complete control of the performers.

Much of the "otherworldly" quality of the work may be contributed to its unique staging design. The "magic" for example, is achieved by super imposition the performers electronically on two life-sized video screens which are placed on either side of the stage. For the duration of the work, the performers are confined to this relatively small stage area, which is completely devoid of any fixed set.

The duality of simultaneous reality and unreality is due to the staging of the work. The action of the "real" humans (performers) is restricted within a very small dark and bare stage area. The two video screens show the very same performers, but now they are surrounded by a plethora of interactive objects and rich architectural scenery.
A light-absorbing black floor and a black velvet backdrop makes the stage appear even more empty and dark. During the performance, the performers move in a slow but deliberate manner, as they shape and initiate a multitude of aural and visual phenomena. In certain sections the video system utilizes the performers as Movement generators, which results in dynamic textural displays, abstracted from the physical movements of the performers on stage.
Other sections utilize the physical outline of the body of the performer as a collage tool, superimposing the body shape on the computer graphics as a shadow-like outline. This sort of "cybernetic choreography" encompasses all levels and elements in the piece; often objects or events that are created or destroyed in one event in the computer generated scenery will affect visual and aural elements in an other event.

Electronic Purgatory was conceived, created and is performed by Kristi Allik and Robert Mulder. The event is still on the performance repertoire of the artists.


RobtLift.jpg (2824 bytes)
Robert Mulder performing in Electronic Purgatory


Technical information.
To achieve a truly interactive and integrated performance , the artists designed an adaptable, multi-computer network. Each computer in the network is assigned a specific task. A MIDI interface connects the "video worlds" to the network, and via this network receives and sends information to the music, the control system, and to the other computer. The current version of Electronic Purgatory uses two video projected images, one of which is reversed (mirror) version,. The image is created by a single video computer. Lighting and projected textures on the performers are created by means of three computer controlled slide projectors. Music is created by two software programs, one of which is used for sequencing of pre-composed sections, the other as an interactive program which interacts with sounds created by the performers on the stage. The two computers are linked via a third software program and a MIDI network.


This award winning piece was started in January, 1989, and was completed in 1992. Further modifications were made in 1997 for the "Berlin Version. The preliminary version of the work was performed in June 1989 at the Festival Synthése de Bourges (Experimental Electroacoustic Music Festival) in Bourges, France, under the name "Pentaprism". Subsequent performances of Electronic Purgatory were held at:

  • The International Computer Music Conference (ICMC) Columbus, Ohio, USA, 1989.
  • The International Society of Contemporary Music (ISCM), World Music Days, Oslo, Norway, 1990.
  • New Music Concerts, Toronto, Canada. February, 1991.
  • ACREC, Montréal, Quebéc, February, 1992
  • Ars Electronica Festival, Linz, Austria. June, 1992.
  • The 16th. Berlin musik-bienniale, Berlin, Germany March, 1997
  • Tage für Live Elektronische muzik, Basel, Switzerland, November 15, 1997 .



No future performances are currently planned


Press Opinions

..."Electronic Purgatory, a 20th-century version of Dante's Inferno created and performed by Canadians Kristi Allik and media artist Robert Mulder, offered live interaction with computer programmed Technicolor images and sounds, managing to prove [that] man-machine interface can be poetically moving."...
Max Stern, Jerusalem Post, October, 1990.

..."But the truly fascinating feature of all this [Electronic Purgatory] was the way in which the visual and the aural were used to generate each other, to produce a symbiotic piece of digital music theatre, without recourse to any conventional resources."...
William Littler, The Toronto Star, February, 1992.

..."INTERAKTIVES AMALGAM DIE ARS ELECTRONICA 1992 IN LINZ"... ..."Über die Performances genannten Veranstaltungen des Ars Electronica-Festivals gibt es ebenfalls viel Widersprüchliches zu berichten. Den überzeugendsten Eindruck machte noch "Electronic Purgatory" von Kristi Allik und Robert Mulder, eine "digitale Musik-Theater-Komposition für Schauspieler, interaktives Theater und elektroakustische Musik""... ..." In der Tat beeindruckend war die Interaktion von Schauspielern mit zwei (spiegel-symmetrischen) Projektionswänden, in denen sie als Teil der visuellen Gestaltung agierten."...
André Ruschkowski



Prix Ars Electronica for Interactive Art, "Annerkennung" 1992


The Canada Council for the Arts for initial financial assistance for this project. (1989, 1991)
The Ontario Arts Council for financial assistance. (1992)
Queen's University for continued support. (1989, 1996)
Ars Electronica for giving us additional funds and the opportunity. (1989, 1992)
The Berlin music-biennale. (1997)


Electronic Purgatory is made to travel. The work is usually adapted to the conditions of each performance and venue check booking information for further information.
For booking information
Contacting Allik or Mulder

Last updated on: June 15, 2001