A bubble becomes a dance partner
Performance in augmented reality: "Pop-Up Stage Arena" by Chris Ziegler in the Fleischmarkthalle at the Toujours Culture Festival 
Jens Wehn

You see: A round platform maybe one metre high, on it crouches the dancer Unita Gay Galiluyo. She rises and begins to dance. Slow, flowing movements that may remind you of Tai Chi. You can also see: people standing around the platform and the dancer, constantly looking at their tablets. Aren't they all well brought up? An ignorant baggage who can't keep their noses off the screen, even when they are in a dance performance?

As always, it's a matter of checking reality against appearance. A casual observer passing by would indeed see the picture described, for he does not know that the tablets belong to it and that the people looking at their screens see something different from him. Not a completely different image, but an expanded one, an augmented one. What is taking place here in the Fleischmarkthalle as part of the Toujours Culture Festival is "Pop-Up Stage-Arena", an augmented reality performance by media artist Chris Ziegler and, incidentally, the rare case where appearance and reality coincide: It is called what it (also) is. Because the piece is mobile and can be performed anywhere, given the right weather and lighting conditions. What you saw when you looked at the tablet: Strictly speaking, you didn't look at it, but through it. For the dancer had been given a dance partner through the now expanded view.
Not one that was human-like, but one that could do things that a human couldn't do. It was a blue, translucent bubble, or "bubble" as it is more commonly called today, which is also the appropriate choice of words for a piece in which networking is a necessary condition of its performance. Both play their game with each other. The bubble can envelop the dancer, hover over her, change her contours. It reacts to the dancer's movements, can continue them or mirror them. The necessary software was written by Nikolaus Völzow. It brings together and processes the information provided by the dancer's motion-capture suit, which is equipped with sensors.

and processes it, which gives life to the bubble. The view through the tablet is fascinating and the audience highly concentrated.
Then the Bubble shows another property: it can divide and multiply. Like planets orbiting a sun, many bubbles orbit the dancer. They form a net whose connections shine red and capture the dancer, as it were. What to the eye without augmented reality is only a human being tossing to and fro is revealed in the extension as a game with the red net that elastically catches the dancer and springs back like the ring rope catches the boxer to the electronic sounds of the composer Damon Lee. With his "Pop-Up StageArena", Ziegler wants to develop a new stage form in which virtual reality is not just a pretty effect.

A stage of its own right, not a substitute to fall back on in pandemic times. Considering how much the audience was into it, Chris Ziegler is on an exciting path.