Alexander Schubert - Control
Participatory Performance Installation
for an abandoned building, light, sound, performer, audience.

Alexander Schubert Control

Alexander Schubert – Artistic Director / Performance/ Choreography /Composition
Carl-John Hoffmann – Wireless Video & Audio
Heinrich Horwitz – Choreography / Dramaturgy
Donny Karsadi – Tech Assistant
Adrian Schmidt – Documentation
Charlotte Bösling – Short Film Clips

Decoder: Carola Schaal, Sonja Lena Schmid, Jonathan Shapiro, Leopold Hurt, Andrej Koroliov
Guests: Rica Zinn, Pedro González Fernández, Trinh Hue Luong, Jana De Troyer, Eirini Aravidou, Anastasia Lakka-Boni, Daniel Müller, Panagiotis Botzios, Orestis Papaioannou, Arian Robinson, Joni Asitashvili, Harald Jordal Johannessen, Vilja Kwasny

Project Abstract:
CONTROL is a participative concert installation which takes place in a large area or site and in a couple of separate control rooms. Over the course of a presentation, the audience goes through three phases: First, they roam the larger site, then they occupy the control rooms and lastly they move to the surveillance room.
Starting out, every visitor enters the main setting (the large area), equipped with VR- Goggles and a camera, which continuously streams the Point-of-View-footage of each visitor to the control room. From here, every visitor is given instructions by another participant who has already progressed to phase two of the installation. In the end, the players arrive in the surveillance room where they supposedly get an overview of the events when in fact pre-produced sequences mix with the actual happenings.
Consequently, every visitor experiences the same setting from three different perspectives: Firstly as someone following orders, then as the controlling authority, and finally as an observer. Musically as well as artistically, every participant is able to choose their own realm of perception and to concentrate on the details they wish to concentrate on. The interaction with the setting and the other actors subsequently means that each performance is unique and that each participant can only perceive an extract of the whole piece.
Furthermore, the piece is about the concept of truth, which is not redeemable in this setting: A not completely graspable scenery is deliberately created.
The control over another human being on the one hand and being directly controlled by another authority on the other further opens up a topical space, which addresses issues such as virtuality, computer games, hierarchies, surveillance, and control itself. By instrumentalizing the analog, the thusly generated setting deals with corporeal estrangement, avatars, and virtual reality. A system, organized by a diverse set of hierarchies, broaches, in turn, the systemic structures of control, surveillance, power, and distrust. The visitor is immersed in a scenario that doesn’t reveal what is real and what is fake – perception is manipulable through the video- presentation of the preceding experiences. The actor finds themself in an unsettling situation. Its rules and processes remain unclear to some extent. The piece is an individual music experience paired with a critical view on the current digital and political states.

Alexander Schubert Control

Setting and Course:
The audience undergoes the concert installation in three phases. All phases have a length of 30 minutes, thus the whole piece will have a duration of 90 minutes. The audience will continuously enter and exit the installation, meaning, every 30 minutes a group of visitors will exit and a new group will enter. Each group of actors consists of 4 members, making a total of 12 people visiting the installation at all times.

1. Main Setting 30’
2. Control Room I-IV 30’
3. Surveillance Room 30’

The first phase begins with the visitors entering the Main Room wearing modified VR- Goggles. The goggles are equipped with a wireless camera, microphone, and headphones. While the visitor sees his actual surroundings through the goggles, the idea is to directly stream their perception forward as well as to mask all humans (participants and performers), putting them in uniform.
This way, every visitor is linked to a Control Room where one is able to see what the specific participant perceives. They receive orders from this Control Room, telling them what to do in the main setting. There is no clear set of rules and the events of the main setting can and should develop differently each time. The area or site is mostly dark, the visitors have flashlights at their disposal in order to help them orient. Thus, a given area is being explored, scouted – based on the orders coming from the Control Room.
There are two kinds of events happening in the main setting. For one, there is a collection of installative, performative Elements with which the visitor can make contact. These can be scenic, technical or installative elements – but most eminently performers, that invite interaction in different “stations”. Additionally, there will be globally steered cues, moments during which the whole room will be staged and synchronized. In both cases, the position and interaction of the specific visitor decide about the consequential reception, focus and the control of the content.

With the beginning of the second phase, the visitor enters the before mentioned Control Room where they now have the possibility to direct one of the new participants via radio. They monitor the visitors’ camera view on a screen (or VR- Goggles) and hear the sound on the headset. They will now be able to issue orders to the connected participant through the microphone.

In the third phase, the visitor moves to a Surveillance Room where they are able to observe all happenings on a monitor. One cannot issue orders from here but has the possibility to choose different camera perspectives. Some of the material is pre- manufactured, though the visitors remain unaware of the fact. Following the experimental proceedings of the first two phases, this one leads to a narrative culmination while explicitly centering around the question of the credibility of contents.

Alexander Schubert Control

Detailed description of the three sections:
The first phase finds the visitor, much to their surprise, in a situation in which they must explore the setting while following instructions. This setting is dark and a little foggy – ideally, it is very large and divided into different areas (subspaces, sealed off segments etc.). The extent of the entire area should not be apparent to the visitor in the beginning. For the whole of the first phase, it is their premise to explore the area as well as to interact with performers, other participants, items, and settings. There will be different “isles”, e.g. a musician at a desk whom the visitor can join or a sound-emitting item in a corner of the room. The controlling participants are free to choose which situations “their” visitors are exposed to, how they deal with and react to them. There should be a large variety of possible interactions. Further, the room needs to be big enough for the visitors not to impede each other, while it still allows for contact between them. The aforementioned opportunities for interaction are made continuously and can be seized time-independent.
In certain moments there will be global events concerning the whole room. They will be carried out by multiple performers. These passages are planned more strictly and follow a clear timetable, contrasting the freely interacted segments. Still, the visitors decide how and from where they perceive the global events.

In Phase Two, the visitor finds himself alone in a room equipped with headphones, a screen, and a microphone. Meanwhile, a new participant has entered the main setting and is ready to be “steered”. The first visitor now changes roles and turns from being controlled to taking control. They thus have the opportunity to explore the Main Room once more in another fashion, to choose a different focus. Above all, it is the possibility to interact with another human being and the handling of being in power – the setting invites visitors to find their own way around power and control.
In the Control Room, participants are being monitored by members of the ensemble – and might sometimes receive orders, which they, in turn, have to relay to their visitor in the Main Room. Thusly, the piece can be directed with a slight touch, with an opaque web of control mechanisms being established. This interaction is important for the global performative moments of the piece.

In the last phase, the participants enter a further Surveillance Room from where they oversee the whole situation from an external perspective – a third run through which sees them in new roles as spectators with no further involvement. They can choose between four camera angles, which allows for a multi-perspective narration. In fact, the video material has been pre-produced during the production period of the piece. The material shows the situation peaking and eventually going off the rails.

Alexander Schubert Control Alexander Schubert Control

Motivation / Background:
The piece fundamentally circles around the following topics:
Individual perception in a musical installation
Virtuality / Deception
Interaction between participants
Hierarchy and mechanisms of control
The concept of truth

On the musical level, there is the chance to create a work of art that is perceived differently by everyone. No performance can resemble the next one, for the room will be newly explored each time. Above all, the piece thrives on the interaction of the participants with their surroundings, forming a new context with every new group of visitors.

The work is based on the themes of Virtual Reality and Game Culture: a scenario, resembling a computer game or a virtual world is created by analog means. One directs a figure through announcements while taking on their point of view. What is real or fake remains partly unclear. Thus the piece mirrors the fact that, nowadays, all media content can be manipulated.

Alexander Schubert Control

Text by Rob Young for the festival brochure:
German composer Alexander Schubert presents a new concert installation that drags audience members into a closed system of manipulation and surveillance. Control is a participatory experience which takes place in various spaces in the cellars of the old bank building xxx in central Oslo.
Each presentation involves a small audience group and several members of the Decoder Ensemble. During any presentation, the audience moves through different phases dealing with different setups of control, surveillance and virtuality.
Control works on numerous levels: breaking down the barrier between public and performer; placing them in situations where virtual reality can be deceptive; and forcing a remote interaction between participants. Audience members become part of the mechanism of control, altering the subject matter but becoming complicit in a hierarchical system.
NB: Participant ticket holders will experience Control in groups of four at a time, admitted every half hour. ‘Observer’ tickets are available for those who prefer to watch the whole process in a separate screening room, but not take part.
Produced in collaboration with Goethe-Institut Norwegen.