REPLICA :: Coding Performance Algorithms & Rituals @ at re publica 2018

Short thesis

In the wake of digital colonisation, increasingly intricate algorithms scout for patterns in the data we generate. The ever-expanding archive not only reflects our values and society—it shapes new cultures, behaviours, and beliefs. We posit that future rituals and algorithms can be rehearsed through performing arts, and propose an intervention that is part discussion, part social experiment, and strives to explore the combined functionalities of rituals and artificial intelligence as mechanisms for social computing.


Sparked by algorithmic applications, new rituals—‘culturally patterned behaviours’— act as normalisation processes for societies and individuals alike. Computer scientist and performing artist Diana Serbanescu, speculative designer Régis Lemberthe, physical theatre performer Kate Ryan and sound artist Body Fool propose an intervention to creatively anticipate future codes.

Participants are invited to take part in a social experiment—interactive exercises to ritualise human-machine collaboration, to highlight the algorithmic nature of rituals, and to devise a minimal compositional piece based on modern routines viewed from different vantage points:
– act code as a ritual: poetic and aesthetic qualities of the instrumental procedure;
– write code for a ritual: efficiency of routines and automatised behaviour;
– iterations and rhythms: creating meaning through repetition;
– collective ritual: mutual understanding and universal codes.

In the second part, REPLICA’s approach to creative anticipation in performing arts is presented, followed by a conversation on the topic, through which we aim to reflect on the conjunction of algorithms and rituals, emphasising points of causality and reinforcement. What happens when instincts adapt to machines; when artificial intelligences become cultural artefacts; how do algorithms monitor the social computer. We are interested in answering these questions in the socio-political context of our time, following a few key points:
– the nature of algorithms and rituals, and their role as part of social mechanisms and cognitive re-programming;
– their common attributes: repetition, routines, machine rituals, and encapsulated behaviours;
– myths and machines: storytelling in socio-technological context, algorithmic narratives and social fabric.

REPLICA is an experimental platform where expressive movement rooted in dance & theatre meets augmented embodiment and creative technologies. Together with performers, scientists and technologist we engage in a playful exploration of possibilities: in what ways can technology enhance our bodies by challenging, training and expanding our expressive, perceptive and creative capabilities? In what ways does it enhance our culture? Together, we imagine and rehearse future rituals, devise new interaction models between humans and machines, and prototype tools, performances and future folklores.

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