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R e p e a t N a m e: Future is already here to interact with you

By September 28, 2021 September 29th, 2021 No Comments

From the opening. Sevcable Port, Saint Petersburg. September 26, 2021. Photo: Polina Nazarova

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J u l i a  K r y s h e v i c h

‘R e p e a t N a m e’: Future is already here to interact with you

No patterns, no ethics, no personal background. It’s hard to imagine a human like that. But thanks to ‘Repeat Name’, now you can witness an interaction, which is NOT based on the life experience of its participants, at least, on the one part… A three-day rendezvous in a sterile, transparent room with a bunch of viewers gazing from behind the glass. Another ‘Artist is Present’? Well, it’s the robot who is present here, and it’s certainly about to stay in the near future. 

‘Repeat Name’ features two mirror installations located in two cities: for 72 hours the rooms will host a robot and a human who will interact continuously in front of the audience (whether spontaneously or algorithmically, amicably or indifferently, we may only guess). Illogical, counterintuitive, the performance might bring us to a better understanding of reality, according to the project team… Hence, Purplehaze reached out to three of the ‘Repeat Name’ originators, Anna Peplova, Natalia Fedorova, and Ilya Karpel, to briefly question them on the mind-blowing initiative. Enjoy it below.

Natalia Fedorova, curator of the St. Petersburg-based venue, artist, researcher, lecturer

Ilya Karpel — author of the project ‘Repeat Name’, artist; 

Anna Peplova — producer of the Moscow-based venue, co-curator and producer at Vzor Future Culture Lab, art manager, digital art producer (TECHNE Platform at NCCA, SIGNAL festival), performer, co-founder at LabirintLab; 

Natalia Fedorova — curator of the St. Petersburg-based venue, artist, researcher of history and philosophy of technology, curator at 101. Festival of Digital Art, lecturer at SPbU and ITMO (Art & Science Program). In her artistic practice, Natalia focuses on the intersection of natural languages and technical mediums;

Ilya Karpel, author of ‘Repeat Name’, artist. Photo: Daniil Primak

Anna Peplova, producer of the Moscow-based venue, digital art producer, performer. Photo: Daniil Primak

Authors of the ‘Repeat Name’ project: Ilya Karpel (below), Dmitry Masaidov (left), Maria Rozhkovskaya (overhead). Photo: Daniil Primak

PH: How did you come up with the idea for the project? 

Ilya Karpel: Do you mean how the ideas are usually born? Honestly, I have no answer to that question: sometimes you just come up with an idea, that’s it. However, it’s not the desire to create something, but the determination to carry it through that requires will and efforts. 

PH: Can you compare ‚Repeat Name‘ with any other existing art project, either in Russia or abroad? 

Ilya Karpel: A lot of things happened before us, and some more will take place in the field of contemporary arts; we’re just mediators between the past and the future. So keep on moving forward.

From the opening. Flacon Design Factory, Moscow. September 26, 2021. Photo: Dmitry Shelestov

Natalia Fedorova: As for me, ‘Repeat Name’ focuses on our future, i.e. living with robots. In the installation, the future is being sought after through the artificially prolonged communication between a human and a machine. For test purposes, a human participant of the project needs to be isolated from other humans. 

Such practices of isolation have a long history: here I should refer to hermitry and, indeed, art of stamina. The most obvious example might be a three-day performance ‘I Like America and America Likes Me’ by Joseph Beuys, in which he locked himself in with a wild coyote in the room.

Besides, there are quite a few works aimed at creating interfaces for interspecies communication. Take for instance, ‘Myconnect’ by Saša Spačal: an installation suggests communicating through sound that one can hear not just with auracles, but also with knees and elbows. Some less obvious but still bright examples are those from art & science: e.g. the introduction of horse blood serum into the blood of artist Marion Laval-Jeantet.

From the opening. Flacon Design Factory, Moscow. September 26, 2021. Photo: Dmitry Shelestov

A more robotic and far more communicative example is SEER (the Simulative Emotional Expression Robot) by Takayuki Todo: a robot that mimics the facial expression of the viewers and, thus, recognizes their emotions.

Anna Peplova: I always find it difficult to compare. You know, there are some artists today who take the robotic mediums to explore the forms and means of communicating, whereas the bioart-oriented projects reflect upon the interaction of bacteria and plants and animals. 

Speaking about the communication of a human and a machine, we might refer here to the sophisticated dance by Huang Yi and KUKA, (Editor’s note: a robot conceptualized and programmed by the artist). It’s also worth mentioning the attempts of finding the common language within the Co(AI)xistence project by visual artist Justine Emard. 

From the opening. Flacon Design Factory, Moscow. September 26, 2021. Photo: Milana Tokaeva

From the opening. Flacon Design Factory, Moscow. September 26, 2021. Photo: Milana Tokaeva

From the opening. Flacon Design Factory, Moscow. September 26, 2021. Photo: Milana Tokaeva

In that sense, the project ‘Repeat Name’ keeps on immersing us into the topic, yet from a different angle. While exhibiting various agents of communication in one space and locking up that lively process behind the glass panel, the authors leave them alone to co-exist, making the entire procedure visible for the external viewer. That’s certainly a physical and emotional challenge, both for the participant and the audience. We’ve just started, so we all wonder how it plays out. 

PH: Which audience do you primarily focus on? What kind of person, from your point of view, might be very interested/completely uninterested in the project?  

Ilya Karpel: I guess people engaged in academic arts, if I may say so, will enjoy ‘Repeat Name’ the most. That doesn’t mean, however, that contemporary art fans may find the project boring: they will definitely savor the beauty of the process, whereas the classics lovers might also benefit from discovering something new. All those who see the installation will probably appreciate it, except for the Russian Ministry of Culture (I’m kidding). 

From the opening. Flacon Design Factory, Moscow. September 26, 2021. Photo: Milana Tokaeva

Anna Peplova: If you more or less consider the global future of humankind, the way people change when technologies are interwoven into their lives, then you might get interested in the project. Also those involved with theatre and performance might be impressed by ‘Repeat Name’, precisely because it’s a different performative form, an attempt to exist intuitively in front of the viewer watching. 

Natalia Fedorova: I would say the installation might appeal to those used to seeing media art on the screen, which operates data and delivers abstract visualizations and sonifications. The currently bored regulars from international art biennials might also like ‚Repeat Name‘: the former usually represents video pieces as a narrative, while the latter doesn’t have it at all, just a pace and a deep breath. 

PH: Anna and Natalia, what do you find special about running ‚Repeat Name‘ at each of your venues? How may (choose the option: Sevcable Port/Flacon Design Factory) affect the way the audience perceives the installation? 

From the opening. Sevcable Port, Saint Petersburg. September 26, 2021. Photo: Polina Nazarova

Anna Peplova: I would rather talk about the Moscow-based part of the project. ‘Robohall’ at Flacon Design Factory is a kind of home to one of its machine residents, which used to stay in this place for some time already. Bright and clean, that space is tailor-made for experiments, like making a fine drawing. In both cities, we locate the installation in lofts, i.e. originally industrial areas that at some point became cultural platforms. We furnish the installation rooms with AliExpress goods, introducing some usual, household things into an art space.

Natalia Fedorova: For Sevcable Port (Editor’s note: St. Petersburg’s venue) both robots are aliens that, however, are far from being from another planet. As you may know, Sevcable Port is a space that used to belong to the first Russian cable factory. It’s no secret that a cable as a structure of electronic communication is equally important both for electric machines and a human, who depends upon the Internet and electricity a lot. Today Sevcable Port is a point where the city meets water. Water had long jeopardized the existence of Saint Petersburg and for that reason, Obvodny a.k.a. Bypass and Griboedov Channels were dug, while the embankments were faced with granite. A rendezvous with water can be compared to that with a robot: it’s enthralling, dangerous, and almost inevitable. 

From the opening. Sevcable Port, Saint Petersburg. September 26, 2021. Photo: Polina Nazarova

From the opening. Sevcable Port, Saint Petersburg. September 26, 2021. Photo: Polina Nazarova

From the opening. Sevcable Port, Saint Petersburg. September 26, 2021. Photo: Polina Nazarova

PH: Ilya, what kind of decision was that to demonstrate ‚Repeat Name‘ at two venues in different cities, an organizational or conceptual one?

Ilya Karpel: Indeed, the decision was a part of the concept. Lots of people from the project team were involved in the process, big thanks to them! 

PH: Please continue with the rest of the sentence: ‚Robots and humans are…‘ 

Ilya Karpel: Robo-humans, whatever you call them. 

Anna Peplova: A part of the future, an immense and shockingly beautiful one. 

Natalia Fedorova: Partners, who, however, neither know, nor can understand each other well. Yet it’s already clear that machines are coming, thus, the ability to communicate with them will soon become a key human competence.  

From the opening. Sevcable Port, Saint Petersburg. September 26, 2021. Photo: Polina Nazarova

PH: What should the viewer know before going to see the transparent room? 

Ilya Karpel: One shouldn’t enter it, actually… 

Anna Peplova: The viewers aren’t allowed in the room. It’s a different world out there, to say the least. Still the audience can watch the process from the outside, through the glass panel. I would recommend the viewer not to think too much about the things (s)he sees, but, instead, to reflect upon the possible future scenarios. What’s a machine to you? Who is a human? What do you feel while watching the installation? 

Natalia Fedorova: Well, we invite the audience to watch the transparent room, yet, as with a mirror or a glass ball, one can’t enter it. Therefore, an unusual but very important and precise view of reality is provided to the viewers. 

From the opening. Sevcable Port, Saint Petersburg. September 26, 2021. Photo: Polina Nazarova

‘Repeat Name’ runs parallely on two venues, Flacon Design Factory, (Moscow, Russia) and Sevcable Port (St. Petersburg, Russia) on September 27-29. 

Authors of the project: Dmitry Masaidov, Ilya Karpel, and Maria Rozhkovskaya. 
Curators of the Moscow-based venue: Anna Peplova, Olga Remneva.
Curators of the St. Petersburg-based venue: Natalia Fedorova, Anastasia Blur. 

Learn more about ‘Repeat Name’ here: repeat.name
And don’t miss a chance to see it first-hand.