work-in-process: sticky times

October 24, 2020
October 24, 2020 Hannah Perner-Wilson

The third in a series of work-in-process conversations with S&&O masters Anton Krause who is creating an interactive experience of Wolfgang Hilbig’s novel “Ich”. Struggling with working alone, he has still managed to keep going, finding other humans and old technologies to work with. And maybe using documentation as a means of unsticking oneself in these lonely times, where a lack of others can lead one on especially sticky creative processes.

Our conversation took part on Discord over the course of one week. The conversation bellow is mostly raw and slightly edited. meaning i re-arranged some of the paragraphs to create a (hopefully) more readable flow, since I often asked more than one question, and threw in comments too.

HPW_ as far as i know you’ve been working with the idea of translating Wolfgang Hilbig’s novel “Ich”” into an interactive one-person/single-audience experience since january 2020 (or even earlier?). last we talked, you mentioned you were struggling with the situation of working alone (&from home?) during the corona pandemic measures….
you also mentioned you’d had a breakthrough when you discovered that much of the story is set in subway stations.

when did the idea to work with the material of Ich very first come to you, and why have you chosen to tell this story now and to make it interactive?

AK_ A friend of me recommended the book to me in the year 2016 and I am playing around with the topic since then. In 2019 it came back in my mind and I had the idea to use it as my foundation for the masters.

HPW_ could you describe in some detail your creative process of working with literary material and interactive technologies? and please share what the breakthrough was that you reached. do share photos of your workplace or work methods if possible!

AK_ Often in participatory theatre the theme or topic is set and the text will be written for the play
I wanted to work the other way around to find out if it could work out.
The Centre of the project is the text and this is a blessing and a curse in the same moment.
The novel has a very word heavy language but I like that.
And I want to create the sensation to walk through the words
To investigate the story in your own paces.
I researched the last Computer the GDR was producing and I took that as a starting point to create a kind of Stasi-Fiction
The interface should feel like out of the world it describes
So the player has the feeling he has found a time capsule

AK_ hide new technology in old one. This practice is called case modding
Out of an old Walkie-Talkie I made basically a Bluetooth headset
I downloaded an app to scan text with my phone and if I find a text spot in the book I pull out my phone and scan it.
I am like a photographer that takes moments out of an landscape to show it later to an audience
So I found out a lot of the story is tied down to specific locations in former east Berlin
So I took that as a core for the exploration system.

HPW_ have you found new means / new routines to work creatively amid the continuing corona situation?

AK_ this is a though question because I hate to work in this loneliness and the whole situations just sucks all of my energy out of my body and brain. I feel num and all thing that I do, feel meaningless. I get rarely any work done because I lost all my joy in doing stuff. It is like living under a hood and I feel stuck and pointless. I learned the lesson that I am not a single player I am multiplayer and I have to avoid working alone. Next week I am looking forward to meet the voice of the suitcase: Albrecht Goette and we will record all audio for the work and I am so happy to meet him back. He is just a wonderful person and he loves literature and supports former east german authors.

And I ordered a front plate out of aluminum for the suitcase and I don´t know why but it brings me somehow joy.

HPW_ it sounds like working alone on this project has been a real struggle to deal with the current situation – not collaborating with fellow humans that help inspire and focus the work. often i hear people (including myself) complain about the troubles that come when teams of people work closely together….. but i rarely overhear people telling each other what they appreciate about the other(s). not being able to work together during these times is letting us experience what we value in human interactions.

your reply to my question also reminded me of a passage in the article you wrote in the SO! publication “How to hack Stadttheater” where you wrote:
“First of all, greet every human being you see in and around the theatre, all the time with a friendly smile and a short “hello” or “Hi”, second of all, try to understand what every part and/or department can and what they can’t do.”.
i get the impression you are sensitive to human interactions and really thrive off working in-person. if the current situation persists for another semester….. do you have some ideas of what you can do so that you can work more with others to help you focus and unstick yourself?

AK_ yes, I have to nearly finish everything until November because afterwards I am in projects within teams. So in November I will start wth a project with OutOfTheBox and Sarah Buser and afterwards I will do a monologue in a museum in Magdeburg and then I will work with machina eX. The end of the loneliness is near. Today I had a quick Skype with Fabian to help him. And he was fed up by working alone as well. But I think part of this is as well the work on a master degree because it is not just any kind of work it is personal and it defines me a little bit. There is no place to hide with this. And sometimes I am to critical with myself and all this dynamics of such a work.

HPW_ have you seen this?

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AK_ I didn´t. Thank for the link it is hilarious and smart. I like it.

HPW_ first saw the robot opera when nadja buttendorf presented it at the ccc camp last summer. and i also really liked it. her humor. i think her parents used to work for robotron. i also think she did the whole production from her bedroom, built herself a greenscreen and did all the parts herself…. i liked this idea of being able to make things from your bedroom…. and this was before corona measures.

HPW_ how did you come across Albrecht Goette and decide to work with him/his voice?

AK_ I worked with Albrecht in Dresden an we made a very text driven play where he was the lead actor – the one with the glasses

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and we talked a lot about literature and he is actually a very big fan of Hilbig´s wife Natascha Wodin and her description of a terrible love. https://www.cicero.de/kultur/den-den-ich-finden-wollte-habe-ich-nie-gefunden/43764
so I knew he will be up for it. It matters to him and he does public readings a lot so he knows how to read. and his voice fits the book.
I thought about different voices but I think it is to distracting from the words so I decided to stick just with him.

HPW_ “I want to create the sensation to walk through the words”
what kinds of “case modded” devices are you building to create this sensation? are you working visually with the text or only with the audio recordings?

AK_ the suitcase is a case mod on its own because it contains a latte panda. as well as the walkie talkie. But this is all for now. It seems to be out of the time the novel is playing in and therefor become an advocate for the text. there will be not a lot of visual content and as well the word or the text will not be visualized. the whole thing is an interactive audio book and any over presented visuals will destroy the need to listen. you need to take time for the suitcase. The gaming character will be subtle.

HPW_ oh, that sounds like there is lots to look forward to starting in november! i think you picked up on something important that comes into play when working on personal works. they bring out a certain desire to get it “right” and to be very self-critical….. to the point that one gets stuck.
// you might enjoy this letter that sol lewitt wrote to eva hesse………. “just do”. here read by Benedict Cumberbatch:

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AK_ thanks for the pep talk link. it helped a lot.

HPW_ working alone, can be such a challenging experience, but i think it is also very rewarding. when one is working with things – in your case the text and the old devices – they get more (undivided) attention when you are working alone with them. and thus they are able to have a lot of influence on you. do you always look to feel in control of what you are creating in this process? are you able to enjoy a loss of control, the sensation of getting lost in your thoughts and the making….. and possibly loosing sight of the point of it?

AK_ I don´t enjoy losing myself, because usually I like to order things and make connection of thought from other people. My directing style is as well more a style to sample thoughts of all members of the production and I am enjoying to get lost in that pool because at the end most of the times we find a way out of the mess. I love old thinks and there scratches and histories they have engraved in there bumps and imperfections.
The problem with making is that I am not so much interested to actually make stuff, I loose interested as soon as I have the feeling I understood the concept and are now able to build it
the actual building process is just hard work for me because you have to go in detail to do so.
Going from breadboard to product is not my beloved part of the step
But it is often so. Even with computer games. I am more interested in the installation and make it run my next interest goes to the concept/system if I have the felling to understood this, I stop playing.
I am not good in playing any instrument
because the way to master it is to practice
but to understand that if you do this movement and this note is played is rather simple
I am shying away from any kind of repetitive task
I am watching DIY videos at least 30 minutes a day but not to actually build it. I am just interested to know how to build it.

this is one side of the medal the other is that I am always a bit disappointed that I technically understood the process but when I want to recreate it it turns out like shit, because you know I have a lack of practice and not the right tools

HPW_ thanks for your answer to my last question!
in “project land” there is so much talk and presentation of what has been made, and little showing of the processes we go through, or avoid going through, to get these things done.
of course what is made is a kind of souvenir of the journey of getting there. but it can’t communicate all it took to get there. all the thoughts thought, the circuits tried, the code debugged, the videos watched…..
this kind of brings me to a next question…. since i know you also spend your time documenting and sharing your knowledge with others (for example your beiträge to the S&&O wiki), i wonder what the role of creating documentation plays for you and the works you create? do you document as you go? does it come easy to you, or is it also something you loose the energy for once you know how?

AK_ Documentation is for me a kind of proving that I understood the thing. because if you are able to explain things like in a “How-To” you are able to understand it better.
I try to document on the go but I am not good at it right now
I just discovered these “How-To´s” as the way for me to understand even more about a project and I think this is a good modus to document the thing I do. So sharing knowledge is actually a good trick not to get lost.

HPW_ “….sharing knowledge is actually a good trick not to get lost” :-)))))))))

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