In Conversation with: Arne Vogelgesang of internil

INTERNATIONAL NOTICE chatted to Arne Vogelgesang about electricity, joysticks and the body as a site of performance.

IN: How would you define internil’s artistic practice?

AV: internil is a label for a series of interdisciplinary performance projects. The collaborators on these projects vary; some people have been part of internil for years, while others only drop in for a single project. The work is material based and usually involves some amount of research and collection. Another important feature connecting many projects is the functional integration of spectators and context into the presentational frame, making them part of the performative calculus. Alles Theater.

IN: Has the integration of tech into your work always been important?

AV: All internil works are interwoven with, and structured by video and audio compositions in differing ways. We have also used a variety of other media including architecture, graffiti, literature, TV, and – during the last few years – lots of internet and computer software material. We always try to use technology not only as a means of representation, but also as a narrative element, pitting it against liveness and physicality. We don’t deliberately push the boundaries however; we try instead to work with technology from a consumer’s perspective. We have now reached a point where we want and need to work with ‘specialists’ from the tech field in order to learn from them. The Remersion workshop with Hylynyiv Lyngyrkz has grown out of that.

IN: Can you give us some more examples of when you have worked with tech?

AV: In 2006, we made an adaption of Ryoji Ikeda’s 0°C, an electronic music piece showcasing digital transformations on samples of ‘classical’ music. The performers applied compositional techniques of the music to the theatrical material – filtering, isolating and recombining, speeding up, playing small segments forwards and backwards – thereby embodying the digital operations. Because, in the end that’s what we do, right? We live it.

Most recently in early 2016, we have begun re-virtualising radical political propaganda videos by means of motion capture in order to build an archive of post-political avatars in a virtual German forest. That’s an ongoing project we kicked off during Forecast Festival at HKW in February with the help of Belgian label CREW, who are VR performance pioneers. It explores VR as a potential stage, as well the inherent virtuality of our political reality. We’ll be showing some bits of it during Performersion.

IN: Do you begin with the tech and then build an artistic concept around it? Or do you find the tech that best fits your work? Or do you work in another way?

AV: Tech is part of our life, and part of the world, so it’s naturally a part of performing (parts of) this world. For example, internil has been working with politically radical internet propaganda for several years, so there is simply no way for us to function without integrating the means of creation, dissemination and collection of this material into our work. It’s rather a question of taking it a step forward. Since so much new technology represents physical and social practice, it becomes a representation of the social itself. There is a lot to learn about ourselves when we look at our technologies.

IN: What has your greatest tech challenge been, either practically, artistically, or emotionally?

AV: Every new show brings with it the intense horror of the potential failure of the tech involved. Aside from that, one of the most exhausting pieces we ever made was a 2008 work that consisted of reenacting a TV channel-hopping session, taking in talk shows, advertisements, ice skating, Holocaust documentaries, Tatort, the shopping channel, you name it. It was each performer’s task to represent whatever was on screen in realtime as truthfully as possible, using only their body, voice, the space and the people in it. That whole show was meant to be some kind of hysterical requiem for a dying media. That may sound funny, but physically, it was hell.

IN: How does the technology change the way you engage with your audiences? Has it made things easier? More complex? Just different? Have you reached new people?

AV: Just different. You have to learn to compete with the tech for the audience’s attention. But that’s fine. Everyone who has ever tried talking to someone with a smartphone in their hands knows that’s the new normal of social interaction.

IN: How do you see your work developing in the future?

AV: Ah, the future! We will become ever more confused. Then we will die.

IN: If you could create the piece of tech of your dreams, what would it be?

AV: There used to be a company producing artificial vaginas with heating and motors and everything called RealTouch, and artificial penises called Joysticks. Interaction with the latter resulted in corresponding movement in the former. The set-up was meant for long distance sex and prostitution. Since I learned about it it’s been my dream to combine the two in real space to create a feedback loop that would have both of them fuck each other till they burn out while I am off doing other stuff. Sadly the company went bankrupt, so I still have to have sex myself.

IN: What do you hope might come out of the two days of Performersion? Do you have a specific wish or desire?

AV: Let’s have fun with electricity! Hylynyiv is testing the set-up for our TENS workshop on herself right now and she’s eager to try it on other people. And if there is someone at Performersion who loves our Glühende Landschaften project (the one with the political avatars in the forest) enough to support us in making it, that would be great too!

Find out more about internil’s Remersion workshop at Performersion here.

  1. APR 2016