Rites de machines : Visions artistiques d’un monde post-humain dans Thinking Things de Georges Aperghis

Saturday, Feb 25, 2023

9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

This conference deals with post-human and post-digital aspects in the musical theatre play Thinking Things (2018) by Georges Aperghis. In the first part of my lecture, I will put the work in context with his two previous of Aperghis’ compositions, Machinations (2000) and Luna Park (2011). All three pieces address the problematic triangular relationship between man, machine and non-human nature. However, they do so under different auspices. To explain the internal cohesion of this informal trilogy, I will use Victor Turner’s cultural anthropological model of “social drama”, with its characteristic stages: “rupture, crisis, recovery and reintegration or schism” (Turner 1980). In this logic, Machinations represents the “rupture”. The machine with masculine connotations invades the fragile union of woman and nature. The ensuing “crisis” is staged in Luna Park as a dystopia where machine surveillance is omnipresent. “Recovery” occurs in Thinkings Thinks in the form of aestheticized rites of passage, leading to the ephemeral vision of a possible new world order, oscillating between “schism” and “reintegration”.

Through the lens of post-human and post-digital theories, I will take a closer look at this quasi-ritual process in Thinking Things in the second part of my lecture. The end of the mythification of artificial intelligence in positive and negative terms has left obvious traces here. The obsolete order of human supremacy supported by technology is being renegotiated into a new cybernetic balance between machine and organic life on a relationship of equals. In an experimental installation, Aperghis and his team explore how humans can endure this new world, if they ever can. In order to get closer to Aperghis’ artistic vision, I will analyze configurations of audiovisual symbols distinct from Thinking Things using the theoretical perspectives of Donna Harraway and Maurice Benayoun, among others.

Léo Dick

Born in Bâle in 1976, Leo Dick studied composition with Georges Aperghis at la Haute école des arts de Berne (HKB). Since 2009, he teaches in the Composition and Creative Practice master program at the HKB. He is a member of the research team of the HKB since 2017. In 2018, he published his doctoral thesis which regards to the act of speaking in the contemporary musical theatre and obtained a four-year postdoctoral scholarship (Ambizione) in 2019 from the Fonds national suisse de la recherche scientifique (FNS) for his Opera mediatrix research project.