Home Science “At that time we believed that technology was a utopia”, Marcel·li Antúnez

“At that time we believed that technology was a utopia”, Marcel·li Antúnez

We interviewed Marcel-Lí Antúnez, a reference in Spanish media art (technological art), creator who convulses the public with brutal, visceral montages, supported by technology, mechatronics, and interfaces that allow interacting with a virtual world inappropriate for minors or sensitive skin

Marcel·li Antúnez was the co-founder of La Fura dels Baus and “responsible” for the early years of the Catalan group that placed the art of performance in the bowels of spectators. He has been stirring the public for over 30 years. And that doesn’t stop.

Marcel·lí Antúnez will be at the Ros Film Festival on November 13, at the cultural center Las Cigarreras, in Alicante, with his show Systematurgy Varietes.

On here you can buy your ticket.

Year 1984. Actions. A very virgin audience in a huge warehouse, the Legazpi Fruit and Vegetable Market in Madrid. There is a generation that has never forgotten what happened that day there.

Actions it was a call to action, so we don’t get discouraged by what’s going on around us “

We saw two men in suits running beside us, axes in hand, destroying a car with extreme violence. We saw a naked man, covered in grease, like a larva, emerging from a kind of jar that rolled between our feet. We saw men eating raw meat with their hands, we saw a veritable colossus of loincloths spill a bucket of blood on their head. There were fireworks, splashes of water, real fire, asses, cocks and lots of punk music. “It was a call to action, so that we weren’t scared by what’s happening around us,” says Marcel·li Antúnez.

This is the official demonstration of the performance Accions (1984) by La Fura dels Baus. Marcel·lí Antúnez Roca was the co-founder, interpreter, musician and artistic coordinator of this historic piece.

The truth is that before starting this interview I had a knot in my stomach, a feeling between nausea and fear that Actions left in my limbic system and returns 30 years later. “I’m not surprised by what you tell me,” says Marcel·li Antúnez. It was a job that aimed to provoke emotions. When I saw my daughter born, I thought that many of the things that happened in Actions They looked similar. During the birth of my daughter, I experienced incredible scenes. I thought: Actions it was exactly like that. “

“That’s why we believed that technology was a utopia, that it would lead us to conquer a world much better than this one. You could do it all over again with technology “

Actions incorporated something really mind-blowing for the beautiful 1980s: mechatronics. La Fura de Marcel·li was already playing with mechanical and electronic devices, the first robotics, the first computer systems in the world. “That’s why we believed that technology was a utopia, that it would lead us to conquer a world much better than this one. You could do it all over again with technology,” said Antúnez.

the life of things

“I started making an internet of things before Wi-Fi existed”

Mechatronics, that magic wand that gives life and movement to things, integrates everything that Marcel·li brought to the stage during his 30-year career after Fura del Baus. “I started making an internet of things before wi-fi existed,” he recalls.

In the past, the connected “thing”, the object that viewers could control through an interface, was their own body. For assembly epizoo, created an interactive sculpture with organic materials, known as Joan the Meat Man.

The sculpture was his own body. A head-to-toe structure was placed, full of sensors, like a kind of exoskeleton around it, and a helmet that supported the mouth, which the audience could control from a distance.

This happened in 1994, the year Antúnez rode epizoo. 1994. No cell phones, no WIFI. “We designed a kind of very simple video game so that people could interact with my body”, explains Antúnez. For that, we had to invent everything. “In the Department of Robotics at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, they made me see that what I used in my work was an exoskeleton, something that had been used in robotics since the 1950s. To work in extreme environments, robots controlled by a moving user are sent the body remotely if the task requires it. And that’s what I discovered for myself,” explains Marcel·li.

Through the computer terminal he created, the public could activate the mechanisms of the exoskeleton, and manipulate their flesh at will: open their nostrils, or their mouths, tap their buttocks, lift their chests, stretch their lips… Antúnez, or El Hombre de Carne, was fully offered to the public.

For epizoo Marcel·li Antúnez developed what was the first device that allowed the spectator to have telematic control of the objects in the scene, including the performer’s body. It wasn’t the only thing he invented.

Audiences could activate the mechanisms of the exoskeleton and manipulate their flesh at will: open their nostrils, or their mouths, tap their buttocks, lift their chests, stretch their lips.

“In 2002, when I set up the performance in, Internet protocols were being established. It had been around for a long time, but they were closed protocols for universities. I had to develop the software we needed for the assembly. So there was nothing, there was no technology that would allow me to do what I wanted, and in he suffered a lot for that,” says Antúnez.

Pol, a rabbit in search of love, assembled five robots, three panoramic screens of videos and animations, and two dressed actors, with what Antúnez called a skeleton. “in it exceeded my capabilities and I didn’t get the feedback I expected either. I put money in a tube to make these pieces. I had a hard time getting off the subject Pol, but the idea of ​​the exoskeletons was very important”.

The skeleton has buttons, sensors that transform Antúnez’s body into a kind of expanded keyboard, without cables, which can communicate with robots that also don’t have cables. “Pol was technically a failure. In every premiere, ten minutes earlier, a cable was broken or communication failed. So we communicated by radio because Wi-Fi had not been commercially developed. Did not exist. To connect things you had to use a radio protocol, and radio waves, when you act in a place where there is a lot of metal, they produce a reverberation and they don’t arrive, or they arrive with so much information that it’s all noise”.

“At that time it was thought that technologies offered a utopian scenario, and we realized that it has become a totally dystopian scenario, that we are totally controlled”

Epizoo (left) and Requiem (right) Montage by Marcel-li Antúnez

Epizoo (left) and Requiem (right) Montage by Marcel-li Antúnez. The robot Requiem, a 1999 montage, andIt is an interactive pneumatic exoskeleton, made of aluminum plates, stainless steel and nineteen pneumatic pistons, which allow movement of the knees, English thighs, hips, shoulders, elbows, jaw and hands. It symbolizes eternity, the possibility of never dying.

“I spent a week asking for favors from programmers I no longer work with. Today I just paid one of them with a longanisa, because they don’t want to charge me »

What happened to Epizoo, or of in, or of Metamembrane, those Marcel·lis productions that went around the world? Could you restock today?

“Impossible,” says Antúnez. “How to keep a work in such a repertoire? You need to start machines that have become obsolete. I tried replacing Protomembrana recently and it was quite an ordeal. It was necessary to put into operation computers that had not been used for eight years. We put new machines and the drivers didn’t work. I spent a week asking for favors from programmers I no longer work with. Today I just paid one of them with a llonganisa, because they don’t want to charge me “

The llonganisa?

Yes. That’s what we call salchichón in Catalonia.

Marcel·li, do you like robots?

I have a Roomba, a robotic vacuum cleaner that works like hell. What happens is that Roomba is not currently connected to WIFI. I see that when the internet of things starts to work, in each of the objects that surround us, we’re going to get screwed. You’ll open the fridge and they’ll know if you ate more or less eggs, which means it’s going to be brutal. I don’t know how this will end.

‘Maybe there are algorithms that control climate change, right? They could be useful for that, and that Google knows if they are putting too many pesticides, or if the land is being poorly tilled »

Now they know a lot about us over the phone, but they miss a few things. Control will be brutal. By that, I don’t mean that algorithms are bad, they are bad if they are misused. Robots will be great. Our relationship with machines goes back a long way and has made a lot of things easier for us. Maybe there are algorithms that control climate change, right? They can be used for this and tell Google if they are putting in too much pesticide or if the land is being under-cultivated.

“The washing machine, dishwasher and Roomba have saved us a lot of trouble and the truth is, they could be better”

Robots should also free us from the slavery of work. Let’s see if this is true. The washing machine, dishwasher and Roomba have saved us a lot of trouble and the truth is, they could be better.

And what’s on your mind right now, what are you working with?

Now. Well… In the first decade of the 21st century I started the project Membranes It is an attempt to understand the world from a diagram presented in the 1980s by the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. He said that humans live in a universe of growing skins. He spoke (of the skin) of the epidermis, of clothes, of the house, of society, of nature. Everything is related. The membrane is something you breathe in and out, which makes everything interconnected.

«Now my work has a lot to do with food and with the decomposition of living beings»

As a result of the pandemic, I spend more time in the field. I already had a small garden, but this year I developed it. Then I realized that the growing pans (precisely) contemplate this whole membrane process. You plant something, you’ll end up eating, you eat and mess and at the same time that shit serves as fertilizer. Now I’m very involved in this roll and my work has to do with it, with food and with the decomposition of living beings. I’ve done several jobs in the cultivation of bacteria and fungi. I think of this on the allegorical or symbolic plane, which is what sustains the art world. In other words, we somehow try to feed a part of the human being with our work.

what are you going to do? Systematurgy Varietes, the assembly that will take you to Alicante for Ros Film Festival?

Well, it will be robots… Let people be surprised.

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