Visits to the Archive no. 5: Luca Ruzza on digital mask technology and the performer as shaman.


In 2011, the Danish/Norwegian director Zoe Christiansen proposed an experiment involving a type of set design that we had never heard of: a digital mask - and a very interesting set of collaborators from five different countries. The experiment was a preparatory research for a cross-over performance of dance, theatre, music and digital visual design called Passing Place Greenland.

Italian set designer and researcher Luca Ruzza from Open Lab Company had these observations about cross-over genres:

"Cross-over is a very delicate word in theatre, because you cross different attitudes and languages. Of course you must have a respect for each other, but there is a problem of time when you put things together. If something goes wrong in relation to time, the value of the project disappears. It is important to work with people who are willing to be in this cross-over phase, this no man's land, this something that is not easy to define immediately. 'You do the set design, you do the music, etc.' - it's not like that. You enter into the world of the other up to a certain point, and then... "

- and about digital tools in theatre:

"The crucial point, the element that everything hinges on, is actually the performer. She is the shaman of this. Because you can have the most incredible magical environment, complex or simple or whatever, but the shaman is the performer. If the performer gets the point, the rhythm - because actually the entire system is administered by the movement, the real movement - so if the performer gets the right place in the space, all the machinery disappears and you come to another place, another level. But if the performer doesn't find the sync with the immaterial stage the two things go in different directions, and the rhythm doesn't occur.

So it's always surprising how, when you say 'digital' it turns out to be just words. Theatre means to use a technique. Always. It can be body technique, voice technique - and this is another technique. But the focus is always the performer who turns everything into something else."

All the participants are interviewed about the results of the experiment, and the interviews can be found in the report here: Passing Place Greenland Interviews

And what a digital mask is you can get a glimpse of in this beautiful video presenting a few highlights from the experiment week: Passing Place Greenland video - produced by Mobile Homes.


To celebrate Laboratoriet's anniversary, artistic director Barbara Simonsen is making this series of Visits to the Archive, rediscovering 10 years of performing arts experiments and artistic research at Laboratoriet.