After a long day, the familiar voice makes all worries fade away. An encouraging wink, and all aggravation disappears. Add a tender touch, maybe a soft kiss, and everything else fades into the background. The latter is still in the future. But at least interpersonal closeness and spatial distance are no longer a contradiction. Digital media and social networks have become established tools of social contact. For people in long-distance relationships or with family all over the globe, it has become an everyday occurrence. Despite vast distances, we can not only chat with each other directly but even look into each other’s eyes. At least via the respective screen.
The difficulties start when the person whom we miss can no longer join a video chat: When a person dies, this is still an irreversible fact. With each death, families are faced with the challenge of accepting something that cannot be grasped emotionally. A person we love is gone forever. Even though they are more alive than ever in our memories.
And this all the more when their digital presence continues. When they smile at us from selfies or pages, when they give us clever or precocious tips or suggest hacks or recommend reading one thoroughly researched background report or another. An abundance of data inheritance remains that may render the person tangible and vivid. But can it keep them alive? AIs that algorithmically revive a character on the basis of chat protocols, likes and posts are more than just a futuristic phantasm. Will there be a hitherto unknown opportunity to have neglected conversations? Or to stay in touch? But who has a claim to a person’s digital legacy? The family or the platform holding this private treasure?
In this commissioned work for Schauspiel Leipzig, Emre Akal sets out to explore forms of digital mourning in all its facets. Embedded in various performance moments, he traces the opportunities and risks of these technological developments. And so this scenic installation addresses the experience of a future that is already just across the threshold. Emre Aka
l is a Munich-based author and director. His productions have been presented at theatres including Münchner Kammerspiele, Maxim Gorki Theater Berlin, Thalia Theater Hamburg and Schauspiel Leipzig as well as in the independent theatre scenes of Munich, Stuttgart and Vienna. His theatre text “Hotel Pink Lulu – Die Ersatzwelt
” received the 2020 exil dramatists’ prize of WIENER WORTSTAETTEN. His work as a director was honoured with the city of Munich’s 2020 Advancement Award for Theatre. In 2021, Akal entered into a long-term partnership with Münchner Kammerspiele and wrote and directed the premiere production “Göttersimulation”. For Theater Münster, he wrote and directed the project “Nachkommen – Ein lautes Schweigen” about life on the border between the digital and the analogue spheres.