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When a robot begins to look too much like a person, we get suspicious. The aversion expresses itself in self-doubt and the question as to how humankind still distinguishes itself from the machine. This strange feeling has been described by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori as the ‘uncanny valley’ and forms the starting point for Rimini Protokoll’s theatrical performance. Working for the first time with playwright Thomas Melle, the German collective created a humanoid robot bearing his physical appearance. The life-like, mechanical doppelgänger takes the place onstage of the human original. This substitution raises a lot of questions. What happens to the original when the copy takes over? Does the original get to know itself better thanks to its electronic alter ego? Are the copy and the original doomed to compete or will they conclude a pact? And as spectators, do we feel as much empathy for the human being as for the machine? Uncanny Valley is an unsettling confrontation with the thinning boundary between the two.
By: Rimini Protokoll (Stefan Kaegi) & Thomas Melle/Müncher Kammerspiele
Concept, text & direction: Stefan Kaegi
Text, body & voice: Thomas Melle
Equipment: Evi Bauer
Animatronic: Chiscreatures Filmeffects GmbH
Manufacturing and art finish of the silicone head/coloration and hair: Tommy Opatz
Dramaturgy: Martin Valdés-Stauber
Video design: Mikko Gaestel
Music: Nicolas Neecke
Surtitling: Babel Subtitling
Presentation: Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Kaaistudio’s
Production: Münchner Kammerspiele
Coproduction: Temporada Alta (Girona), Berliner Festspiele (Berlin), Immersion - Feodor Elutine (Moskau), SPRING Performing Arts Festival (Utrecht), FOG Triennale Milano Performing Arts (Milan), donaufestival (Krems)
Performing rights by: Rowohlt Theater Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg
With the support of: German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Goethe Institut
Stefan Kaegi has staged documentary theatre plays, radio dramas and site-specific productions with various constellations of people, often linking economic relations to its impact on humans. For example, Kaegi has toured the world with two Bulgarian truck drivers and a converted truck and has staged 10,000 locusts at the Schauspielhaus Zurich. His audio tour Remote X can currently be heard in Moscow, Berlin and Shanghai. At the Théâtre Vidy in Lausanne, Kaegi staged Nachlass (Legacy) with people who do not have long to live. Together with Helgard Haug and Daniel Wetzel, Kaegi works under the label Rimini Protokoll, which was awarded the Silver Lion for Theatre at the Venice Biennale in 2011. Most recently, Rimini Protokoll staged the multi-player video Situation Rooms about the global arms trade. The Hamburg Schauspielhaus celebrated the premiere of a simulation of a World Climate Change Conference, which was also shown at the Kammerspiele in 2015. In Canada, Rimini Protokoll staged 100 % Montreal with 100 representatives of the city, who were selected according to statistics. In Santiago de Chile, hundreds of memories of the Pinochet era were programmed for the App Recuerdos. Together with the Münchner Kammerspiele, Rimini Protokoll last staged Top Secret International (State 1) in the rooms of the Munich Glyptothek.
Thomas Melle studied comparative literature and philosophy in Tübingen, Austin, Texas and Berlin. In 2004 he made his debut as a playwright with 4 Million Doors (written together with Martin Heckmanns). In 2007 the short story collection Raumforderung for which he received the advancement award of the Bremen Prize for Literature in 2008. His debut novel Sickster (2011) was awarded the Franz Hessel Prize. His novel 3000 Euro followed in 2014, which was shortlisted for the German Book Prize. In 2015, Thomas Melle, who lives in Berlin, received the Berlin Art Prize. In the following year, he was shortlisted for the German Book Prize for Die Welt im Rücken (The World at Your Back, 2016). In this book Melle offers an extraordinary insight into the live and the reasoning of a person suffering from manic depression. It was awarded the Klopstock Prize for New Literature and the testimonial of the Schiller Foundation. The stage adaptation of the dramatised novel at the Vienna Burgtheater (directed by Jan Bosse) with Joachim Meyerhoff as the protagonist was selected for the Berlin Theatertreffen in 2018. Twice Thomas Melle has been nominated for the Mülheimer Dramatikerpreis: in 2016 for Bilder von Uns and in 2018 for Transfer. – For Uncanny Valley a doppelgänger was made of Thomas Melle. The writer’s face and hands were copied and his body measured. Thomas Melle wrote the text for Uncanny Valley together with the director Stefan Kaegi.