Electronic 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
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
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.
performing in Electronic Purgatory
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 .
PERFORMANCES OF ELECTRONIC PURGATORY
No future performances are currently planned
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,
..."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.
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."...
Prix Ars Electronica for Interactive Art,
The Canada Council for the Arts for initial
financial assistance for this project. (1989, 1991)
The Ontario Arts Council for financial assistance.
Queen's University for continued support. (1989, 1996)
Ars Electronica for giving us additional funds and
the opportunity. (1989, 1992)
The Berlin music-biennale.
INTERESTED IN BOOKING A PERFORMANCE?
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
on: June 15, 2001