New York director Annie Dorsen takes the famous television debate between the philosopher Michel Foucault and linguist/activist Noam Chomsky from the Seventies as inspiration and material for a dialogue between two specially developed chatbots: every evening, these computer programs, designed to mimic human conversations, perform a new – as it were, improvised – live text. In the tradition of mediaeval mystics such as Ramon Lull and Albertus Magnus, who once strove to build mechanical men with feathers, bronze and levers, aspiring to resolve the most difficult philosophical problems, the chatbots are a contemporary answer to the question of the artificial mind. What world of thought can arise when two computers sit down together and reflect on what they have in common with us? “Hello Hi There” is an intimate collaboration between man and machine – an intelligent and, alarmingly often, creative and humorous dialogue on humanity in the age of its digital reproduction.
Obie award–winning director and writer Annie Dorsen works in a variety of platforms, including theatre, film, dance and, as of 2010, digital performance. She is the co-creator of the 2008 Broadway musical Passing Strange, which she also directed. Spike Lee has since made a film of her production of the piece, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009, subsequently screened at South by Southwest Film Festival and The Tribeca Film Festival, and was released theatrically by IFC in 2010 before being broadcast on PBS’ Great Performances. Most recently, she created Magical with French choreographer Anne Juren, which premiered at Impulstanz (Vienna), and Pièce Sans Paroles, with Anne Juren and DD Dorvillier, which premiered at brut (Vienna) in May 2010, and was also seen at the Rencontres Choréographiques Internationales Seine-St-Denis (Paris). In 2009 she created two music-theatre pieces, Ask Your Mama, a setting of Langston Hughes’ 1962 poem, composed by Laura Karpman and sung by Jessye Norman and The Roots (Carnegie Hall) and ETHEL’s Truckstop, seen at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival. Her pop-political performance project Democracy in America was presented at Performance Space 122 (PS 122) in spring 2008. Her short film, I Miss, originally the centerpiece of Democracy in America, has screened at SXSW Film Festival, The New York Film Festival’s “Views From the Avant-Garde” and the Nantucket Film Festival. In addition to numerous awards for Passing Strange, Ms. Dorsen has received several fellowships, notably the Sir John Gielgud Fellowship from the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, and both the Boris Sagal and Bill Foeller Fellowships from the Williamstown Theater Festival. She has taught at New York University, Fordham University, and Playwright’s Horizons, and is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.
Concept and Direction: Annie Dorsen. Video and projections: Kate Howard. Systems and sound design: Jeff Gray. Scenography and Lighting design: Edward Pierce. Chatbot software design: Robby Garner. Consultation: Nicolas Siepen and Berno Odo Polzer. Production Management: Cyd Cahill. General Management: Lisa Schmidt. Production: VierHochDrei. Co-producers: steirischer herbst (Graz), Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin), BIT Teatergarasjen (Bergen), Black Box Teater (Oslo), PS122 (NYC). Additional production support and residency provided by the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer.