We know robots above all as working machines, as efficient and precise executors. In German industry, they hardly look like humans in order to exclude emotional entanglements. In Asia, on the other hand, humanoid robots have been developed for a long time, for example for care of the elderly or as sex partners. The external similarity to humans should facilitate the acceptance of the machine here. But it also arouses distrust: What is a human being, what is a machine? Japanese robot researchers call this uncanny similarity “Uncanny Valley”.
The writer and playwright Thomas Melle has created an animatronic double for “Uncanny Valley”. This humanoid appears instead of the author and raises questions: Do the copy and the original compete with each other or do they help each other? Does the original come closer through its double? Who speaks and what is his program?
Thomas Melle observes and Kaegi documents how engineers reassemble his body from servo motors and silicone and program it so that the motors take over his repertoire of movements. Through precision mechanics, masks and costumes, the humanoid robot becomes a performer whose facial expressions, gestures and language could possibly trigger empathy – but empathy with whom? With Melle himself, who is no longer there, or with the robot? Who speaks in the uncanny valley?
In this way, the machine becomes a projection screen for a future in which the human original can no longer be discerned at some point. Such a humanoid is not an industrial worker, but a reference person, as we may soon meet her in a nursing home. In Rimini Protokoll, the author Thomas Melle becomes the creator of his image. He gives control to a doppelgänger, who represses him, reflects on the mutual relationship and makes this reflection repeatable evening after evening as a process that is often split.
Duration: 1 h
Concept/Text/Direction: Stefan Kaegi
Text/Body/Voice: Thomas Melle
Equipment: Evi Bauer
Animatronics: Chiscreatures Filmeffects GmbH
Production and type of finish of the silicone head/coloration and hair: Tommy Opatz
Dramaturgy: Martin Valdés-Stauber
Video Design: Mikko Gaestel
Music: Nicolas Neecke
Production Management Rimini Protocol/Touring: Epona Hamdan
Light Design/Touring: Lisa Eßwein
Sound and video design/touring: Jaromir Zezula
A production of the Münchner Kammerspiele
In co-production with Berliner Festspiele – Immersion, donaufestival (Krems), Feodor Elutine (Moscow), FOG Triennale Milano Performing Arts (Milan), Temporada Alta – Festival de Tador de Catalunya (Girona), SPRING Utrecht
Performance rights: Rowohlt Theater Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg
French version in co-production with Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, le lieu unique – Centre de Culture contemporaine de Nantes, Centre culturel suisse à Paris , la Villette, Les 2 Scènes, Scène nationale de Besançon within the framework of Lab e23
HELLERAU – Europäisches Zentrum der Künste (Dresden) ist neben FFT Forum Freies Theater Düsseldorf, HAU Hebbel am Ufer Berlin, Kampnagel Hamburg, Künstlerhaus Mousonturm Frankfurt am Main, PACT Zollverein Essen und tanzhaus nrw Düsseldorf Mitglied im Bündnis internationaler Produktionshäuser, gefördert von der Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien.