Research IV: Desktop Theater – Adrienne Jenik


Desktop theatre eliminated distance between performer and audience as performance practices that unfold not in physical or proximal environments but online, in purpose-built platforms or appropriated virtual environments and worlds. Distance is no longer a challenge nor a contributing factor in groups of people being able to create their own art and share it with one another as technology progresses and allows more people than ever before to do so. Technology has made art and theatre more accessible to many – we don’t even have to be at the same place at the same time to enjoy the art piece and performance.

You don’t need to go to a theatre.
You don’t need a ticket or reservations.
All you need to do is watch it on your own screen to be a part of it.

– Randall Packer

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In a sense, the core idea of Adrienne Jenik’s Desktop Theatre piece was to give access to art to whoever has a computer as opposed to those having a ticket or invitation to watch a particular performance. Thus, art is not restricted to the art community and is not taking place in a serious theatre or gallery setting.

The performance itself was quite intense, it was just unbelievably chaotic; as each performer is typing, they’re also talking into a microphone and that was amplified as well as the sound from the six versions of the game all going at the same time. It was all really chaotic but also quite wonderful and absurd.
– Joseph DeLappe

It provides the audience with room for exploration and interaction and ultimately is at the core of OSS; where knowledge and material can be shared and enjoyed by many with limited restrictions on the world wide web. It could be said to be like a sort of “open source theatre” as it breaks the boundaries of geographical location, demographics and many other factors associated with traditional theatre and therefore, brings theatre down to a “personal” and less formal manner fostering interaction between one another as text becomes the integral part of the performance.

– in all of these projects I’d look at these game spaces as a new type of public space. And you can think of this as a kind of online street theatre, or protest. It was very interesting to be having my work questioned and being engaged in these dialogues through emails and through the comments at the end of these various articles and such, and actually deciding then to engage in more text-based dialogue and communication and debate as a result of reactions to my intervention.
– Joseph DeLappe

In traditional theatre, there is dialogue, action and improvisation; these factors contributes to a lack of interaction between performer and audience. Hence, when the tables are turned and the work becomes a digital performance in which the audience are represented by avatars we have little to no control over, they possesses the power plays an integral role in influencing a particular performance. In the new immersive online environment, the keyboard becomes a device to facilitate communication with each other in the performance.

Project Hyperessay #1: Amazing and Freaking out the Internet



Out of all the micro-projects that we have worked and embarked on so far, I felt that the Collective Body was the most amusing and interesting. It made me chuckle and I like how in this body of work, we are able to make small contributions to form a larger picture as a whole. The collective artworks creates an alternate form of narrative; open to the audiences’ interpretations. Although the idea of tweaking photographs to create a new image is not new, it never ceases to create reactions and amuse or even frighten the audience. The reactions an artist hopes to get can be planned… however, there is no guarantee how the audience might react to the work.

I thought about John’s use of the camera app on one of our Adobe Connect Sessions and recently,
I downloaded an app on my smartphone called FaceSwop. An example of a FaceSwop:


I find this idea somewhat similar to the Collective Body and has the potential to explore some of the topics I hoped to bring out in my Video Selfie: which was to show how we hide behind our computer screens, or rather, avatars as a form of disguise or masquerade. We reconstruct ourselves and choose which fragments of our personalities to showcase on the Internet. Therefore, I did more research on FaceSwaps and found the CLMTrackr by Audun Øygard:


CLMtrackr is an open-source JavaScript project that lets you “try on” faces of celebrities and other notable figures. To accurately capture your facial movements, the virtual model plots 70 reference points on your face and uses them to add effects to the masks in real time.”
-Audun Øygard, CLMtrackr, Artists’ Statement


Building on face-tracking algorithms from a group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, Øygard’s self-built Javascript library follows 70 points on your face in real time. Tilt your head, wiggle your eyebrows, or stick out your tongue, and the virtual visage remains stretched over yours all the while. The concept is novel and participation is simple. Simply go to the website. Allow them access to your webcam and you’re all ready to go. To some, turning on their webcams would mean they’d need to get ready and actually be prepared for a photo. For the ladies, some dabbing of lipstick and for men maybe more wax on the hair… (p.s You don’t even have to look super presentable for this; after all, it isnt your face per se!)

Here’s my stab on the CLMtrackr! Can you guess who’s “masks” are on my face…
(Apparently the first is Justin Bieber and second is George Clooney?!?!?!?)

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The presentation is slightly rough though as the system is flawed and sometimes is not able to accurately detect your face. (at one point they had the mask on the blue painting behind me, but I couldn’t catch that moment and capture a screenshot on time [glitch?] ):

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Øygard explains, “Face substitution is one of the things which probably will get much better over time and we’ll see it pop up more places.” With a very prospective future ahead, the development of digital technology is looking to be encompass more interactive and user-friendly improvements.

Øygard made his software citing Faces as his reference. Faces is an interactive installation by Arturo Castro and Kyle McDonald, extending work on face substitution. The piece resembles a mirror where people get their face swapped.. It takes advantage of the unique experience of slowly recognizing yourself as someone else.

He published the above video to do some kind of research; to see what people reactions are. Vimeo commenters are already chiming in about possible uses. “Would be useful for chatroulette,” replied Vormplus. The software provides an uncanny experience of being someone else elicits peoples responses; laughter, surprise, repulsion.

The installation is based on the idea of wishing for a new identity: when the subject first steps up, they see their face unmodified. After closing their eyes to make a wish and opening them again, they discover they are wearing a new face. The result is a mixture of a playful, surprising and some times scary experience.” – Arturo Castro, Artists’ Statement


Castro then created an exhibition following the exhibition. Knowing that it takes approximately one second for someone to respond to a completely unexpected event, he stored a photograph at 1.5 seconds after the swap – capturing that moment of realization. So far, the reactions aren’t what Castro expected. “I was expecting creepy and fun/hilarious,” he says. “But I was a little surprised by the people who say ‘Oh, the future is scary.'”

I find it interesting how the artists’ opinions often varies with that of the audience in works like these. One can not expect a clear and definite answer to what the audience’s reactions and opinions might be. Therefore, perhaps we could an open online database in the form of a website that publishes the captured pictures and uploads it in real time to the internet. This is accompanying an interactive setup with the cameras and screens possibly at the ADM lobby. The setup could be somewhat like Nicholas Maigret’s Pirate Cinema. In this way, we could create an installation that interactive, participatory, and multimedia-based; using our social interactions.

On the proposed site, we could provide a “shared record” of all the real-time faceswops. It is a “collective blog” that is updated and constantly changing. Additionally, the implementation of twitter feeds and an opinion section allow the public to engage with the website and make their interactions with the website and its content, and their opinions public knowledge. The website promotes the event/installation and allows the viewer to learn more. There could also be “share to twitter”, “share to facebook” and “share to flickr” widget buttons so that audience can share the experience with their friends, family and acquaintances who might not be physically present in ADM to experience it. Using and supporting open source software and garnering more attention to its availability can also help drive greater awareness on how the open innovation model and open source technology can help drive innovation and pave way for great ideas.

Aside from the option of sharing photos/videos from the website to social media, we could also implement comment boxes on each photo/video that helps promote conversations. Some people can pen down what they think, ask questions and others can possibly respond and give answers. It speaks to the dynamics and evolving nature of the website’s subject. In this way, we can take full advantage of interactive interface and connectivity to multiple social cultures and micro-cultures. After all, Net.artists have built digital art communities through an active practice of web hosting and web art curating. Constantly finding new ways to share public space.

We could also explore beyond using faces of celebrities. We could take pictures of peers, faculty and even administrative assistants as masks. (This would of course require prior permissions to use their photo/faces – Much like Eva and Franco Mattes Life-Sharing – but Face-Sharing HAHA) People can take a stab at guessing who’s face was merged with who’s or with who’s body.. or one might even want to tag themselves in the post and receive realtime updates if people like or leave comments on the photo to promote more interaction. Having a “Most Viewed/Commented” on the website column also is a wonderful interactive element. The viewer can learn about what swaps others on the site enjoy and it personalises the experience for everyone.

And as cameras and videogame systems become even further intertwined, you could imagine how this sort of technology could be applied. We could even have interactive face-swop video greetings like this at the adm lobby:

SOME TECHNICAL ASPECTS: Developed using openFrameworks and the Facetracker library through Kyle McDonald’s ofxFaceTracker addon for OF All the code is open source and can be found in this github repository.

A mask to hide perceived imperfections.


60 sec alter ego oss:

What are your views about make up?
Is it a veil or mask to hide our faces, or is it a form
of artistic expression and creativity?

Here’s mine.


EDIT: I guess the same could be said about our avatars. In a way, we hide ourselves behind a tiny icon online. We choose that photo very carefully and are consciously choosing only the best to represent ourselves with.