Imagine you come on stage, but the drama is somewhere else. One feels something like this here: A ground floor apartment somewhere in Neuhausen – 2 rooms, kitchen, bathroom – furnished as if the residents had just been beamed out of their four walls seconds ago: unmade beds, open laptop, beer bottle batteries open the kitchen board. A bit dingy, a bit chaotic, quite studenty – and hyper-realistic. Even the fridge is full. An equipment orgy like in a Sunday crime scene.
Experiments with new formats
Laocoon is Hans Block, Moritz Riesewieck and Cosima Terrasse (from left).
Back to the dorm. Max, our only contact, invited us. Apparently lives here. Since yesterday we have been writing to each other via Telegram. We should feel good, he said. Sent us GIFs of Philipp and Linn, his roommate and his girlfriend. Then the info: By the way, he is a bot.
The oracle from the wooden shrine on the kitchen table
“Hello,” says a voice in the room. “Max is that you?” I ask. “This is Max. I’m more Max than Max is Max.” Max is here. At least as “there” as an algorithm can be “there”. The voice comes from a small, somewhat mystical dark oak wooden shrine on the kitchen table. Mysterious like Max himself, who says you can ask him anything. However, he then oracles to himself with gentle defiance (“I also think Hawaiian pizza is delicious”). And who is therefore a rather stubborn source of information for what is here actually comes off Strictly speaking, not here, but on the Atlantic, says Max. Not the Maxbot standing on the table, but his role model: the real Max, Linn’s friend. Although that too actually not there. At least not with Linn. Because Max is gone, gone.
This is the somewhat paradoxical situation that this dramatic installation puts you in: we are right there. The setting is super authentic – as I said: hyperrealism – and yet what is sold here as a dramatic plot is radically conveyed. In short: we are there, but the plot is not. Or to put it another way: it is only through the emails that arrive on Max’s laptop, through the chat histories in his Telegram account – and the calls from Linn. Scavenger hunt feeling.
Ultimately, our digital footprints determine who we are
Retelling the search for clues is not worthwhile. The story is as complicated as it is stupid. What is interesting, however, is how it is told: by means of a classic escalation dramaturgy, only largely without players. Instead, the communication media thunderstorm intensifies into a staccato of emails, voice messages and calls. Communication reflects emotion: experience has shown that ten missed calls from dad perform quite well.
The installation then changes one’s own view in an interesting way, questions the contrast that it itself opens up. Why should what is conveyed by the media actually be less real than the direct impression? See Max, talk to him – or scroll through the chat history with his dad… what tells more about him? In the end, Laocoön gives a very clear answer. Ultimately, our digital footprints determine who we are. So it is only logical that Maxbot, i.e. the Max who says of himself that he is more Max than Max Max, ultimately replaces Max.