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PIPS:lab explores social media in interactive performance

By Liv Ingram, November 20 2014 —

Originating in the underground party scene of Amsterdam, PIPS:lab is a performance group well known in the Netherlands for their surreal, interactive multimedia shows.

Their unorthodox and outlandish performances blur the lines between theatre, film and video games, making it difficult to pin down what exactly PIPS:lab does.

“I can’t explain what it is in written words or spoken words, but the performance itself is something you have to experience. It is something that you can read about and not [have it] be explained,” says Thijs de Wit, actor and artist of PIPS:lab. “The performance is quite difficult to talk about because it doesn’t come across as it is.”

Last year, PIPS:lab brought their after-life social media platform, Die Space 3.0, to Calgary as part of Beakerhead. The performance pitched the “first
online community for the dead.”

On Nov. 19, they are bringing their newest production, Social Fiction, to Theatre Junction Grand.

Social Fiction highlights how the saturation of technology changes the way people interact with each other. The performance explores the consequences of social media in the not-so-distant future where personal information is given freely and people can have relationships without any real-life investment.

“This new way of communication is very interesting,” de Wit says. “I come from the physical generation, as I call it, so I tend to talk to people and be in the same room with them. But I think the new generation doesn’t need that physicality anymore. They communicate through social media in such a way. I’m just curious where it leads.”

PIPS:lab creates most of the technology used in their performances. Diespace 3.0  featured a real-time light-capture piece where the audience wrote in the air using flashlights and the collective image was projected onto a screen at the front of the theatre.

For Social Fiction, PIPS:lab created the Potator, a motion-capture installation that translates movement into 3D images.

Between creating technology and a narrative, putting together a show can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, de Wit says.

“We develop the technique in the same way we develop the performance,” de Wit says. “We are constantly waiting for something, then it’s ready and we can play with it, and then we’ll change it again. It is a process that takes a lot of time.”

Their shows challenge the conventions of contemporary theatre by taking the audience out of their role as spectators and making them part of the performance.

“We pull you out of your comfort zone, but we make it as comfortable as possible for you,” de Wit says. “It’s not about taking people out of their comfort zone just to take them out of their comfort zone. There is a goal.”

Social Fiction runs until Nov. 22. Tickets are $39 for general admission and $20 for students, seniors and people under 30.

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