IMMERSION in the fields of the arts, technology, ecology and society 2016-2021

Thomas Oberender in Conversation with Nancy Pettinicchio


Nancy Pettinicchio: I wonder if you could describe the space you’re currently sitting in.

Thomas Oberender: At the moment I’m working from home, in an untidy workroom that you can’t see because of my virtual background. What you can see is some wallpaper that was designed by David Bowie.

NP: Do you usually work from home now?

TO: For the last year and a half, yes. But we’ve also put on exhibitions since the regulations were relaxed a little.

NP: The situation is the same in Canada. Most people have the opportunity to return to work in a hybrid form but the majority is still done from home. I’d like to ask a question about your own background. Your principal media were originally performance and theatre. Maybe we can talk about the strengths of performance and theatre, their connection with the audience and the way they encourage them to think.

TO: When we talk about the theatre, we’re talking about quite specific forms of Western theatre. There are certain rituals and conventions linked to this, the fourth wall for example, the expecta- tion that theatre will have something to do with texts, constructing repeatable events, actors presenting characters and so on. This kind of theatre normally takes place in a confined space, an artificial cave: it is a »theatre of the night” where vampires live, creatures that require the blood of the living and never see daylight. But this kind of theatre can also be organised very differently. For example, there is a type of theatre without people. By this I don’t mean robot theatre or object theatre, but a kind of theatre in which the space itself becomes a character and tells a story. We have produced plays where the audience does not sit facing the scenery but enters it and walks through it. Like a detective looking for clues. In this world, every detail is a staged sign and this is what generates a »narrative space”.