Computer-Assisted Schizophrenia - a multitrack video sampler for poor improvised theater

(2004) Michael Lew / Story Networks / Media Lab Europe


Since the beginning, cinema and theatre have been rivals. But not always.
In the 20s, film projection was used with performance. In the 60s, video started to be used on stage.
Today, the potential of screens on stage is explored by some avant-garde theatre performers like Antuñez (Spain), Robert Lepage (Canada), Station House Opera (UK) or the Wooster group (US).

The combination of live digital video and real-time image processing in performance is generating hybrid new forms that blend the natures of live and recorded arts and open new visual dimensions to scenography.

The glove is a multi-track video sampler for a solo performer. It lets a single actor record up to 4 looped video tracks of himself, at a touch of his finger while he is performing, controlling loop duration at the frame accuracy.

It is meant to be used for schizophrenic theatrical improvisation, with minimal props, costumes or set design, in the tradition of Grotowski's poor theatre. The actor can construct scenes where different selves interact on the screen and where live action and recorded action become indiscernible to the audience. This apparatus is also great as a real-time compositing tool for experimental mise-en-scene or for spatio-temporal studies a la Muybridge.

The remote controller is embedded in a glove as a low-power RF wireless emitter : each finger is a contact switch that controls recording and playback of one of the four distinct variable-length loops of video. Each track is stored separately, decompressed and composited in real time.



Introduction sketch : intro (Quicktime - 3.8 Mb) ; intro 2 (Quicktime - 2.2 Mb)



Workshop :
barabbas 2
rex lavatus

Preliminary proposal :
Early technical sketch (jpeg - 35 kb)



Conceived, programmed and performed by Michael Lew.
Computer-assisted Schizophrenia was a research project conducted in the Story Networks group at Media Lab Europe under the direction of Glorianna Davenport, MIT Media Lab.

HF, electronics : Cian Cullinan
Software architecture: Stefan Agamanolis (ISIS)
Special thanks to Ben Piper and Glorianna Davenport.



For more information, please contact <lew at media dot mit dot edu>.