for 5 laptop performers
Mind Trip was the very first original piece performed with Quintet.net in 2000 on occasion of the Klangzeit 2000 Mystik und Maschine festival in Münster. The concept was so new that I had originally first called the piece Quintet.net, before realizing that the software environment would potentially lend itself to many more pieces.
It was performed by Chris Brown (Oakland), Anne La Berge (Amsterdam), Melvyn Poore (Wiesbaden), Erhard Hirt (Münster), Anthony De Ritis (Boston) – instruments & MIDI Controllers; Canine/Kai Niggemann (Münster) – sound design and Georg Hajdu (Münster) – direction. The piece has 5 sections at 6 minutes each during which the performers improvise to granular sounds derived from their own recordings.
Mind Trip is a piece about the notion of contact, contact between beings, in real life, on the Internet, between solar systems. It deals with the paradox of the search for contact which often enough remains unfulfilled. In this piece, a synthetic narrator tells the story of Xenon who has been chosen by a future terrestrial civilization to get in touch with some extra-solar neighbors. This astronomical search is metaphorical for the basic principles of Internet performance whose motivation is analogous: The use of technology to get closer to people that are remote. Do we succeed?
Mind Trip (Text: Georg Hajdu)
It was Saturday morning when Xenon woke up with the certainty that soon nothing would be the way it used to be. He had been chosen to carry out an experiment that the agency had planned for a long time and had subsequently undergone a medical procedure. For this, they had suspended him in this contraption which made it impossible for him to move, carefully removed the top of his scull, cautiously adjusted the sensor net and implanted the interface.
A few weeks after he was released from the hospital, he had started going to the Center in order to practice moving cars back and forth, as well as touching virtual objects just with the power of his mind, while using a speech synthesizer to converse with Zoë.
Just the day before, he had told Zoë how privileged he felt to participate in this grand moment, as this was an experiment people had been working on for generations.
Once more, they reviewed how it all started when Seti received its first signal from Alpha Centauri.
No, there was no doubt from the start that this series of signals came from an intelligent source. To make a long story short, it had been possible to decipher the code. The code, which first consisted of pictograms, became over the years more and more complex dividing into a script language as well as a stream of images and sounds.
Enough for now, said Xenon turning Virt off and consequently interrupting the data transmission to the implant.
He always felt a little dizzy when he was thrown back to his very own sensory impressions so suddenly.
“What a relief that Virt doesn’t think my thoughts as well, he exclaimed with slight irony, and put his jacket on.
Since the start of the experiments he had to revise his concepts of the self and the boundaries of his identity.
At dinner, they talked about the details of the forthcoming experiment. It was planned to connect Xenon to Centauri’s data stream to have him go on a virtual round walk on the blue-green planet Algon. Hence, he would be the first earth dweller to ever leave the solar system–at least in virtureality.
The effort that was made to make this walk possible was unimaginable: To send hieroglyphs back and forth was nothing in comparison with what the intragalactic communication demanded in terms of bandwidth. They employed the modulated light of the stars.
Zoë rubbed his back gently. “Don’t forget that what you’re going to witness will be just an illusion of reality and synchronicity.” Xenon nodded feeling a bit uneasy, covering this emotion with a sarcastic comment. “In the end, you guys will just put in one of the practice tapes, won’t you?”
Xenon wasn’t a religious person, yet thoughts about the origin and the destiny of the cosmos weren’t foreign to him. Over and again he tried to visualize the current model of the universe as being interwoven by superstrings, which had budded from an even bigger part of the cosmos. In such moments he cursed the evolutionary adaptations of his sensory and mental apparatus which made it impossible for him to picture what the mathematical formulae suggested.
“A bubble, they say, so small and hot that everything fit into a pinhead and now our closest intelligent neighbors are so far away that we can’t help but use a gigantic intragalactic video beamer to get in touch with them”.
In such moments he felt lonely and hopeless, the situation seemed irremediable.
On this Saturday morning, Xenon had breakfast as usual and took the transporter to the Center. Now, we see him entering the building with a firm gait, greeting his nervous colleagues with a fleeting nod. Zoë welcomes him with a smile and prompts him to take a seat on the big armchair in the center of the hall. Awaiting the stream of sensory input, he closes his eyes while Zoë connects him gently to Virt.
A sign points to a flat building surrounded by plant-like creatures. The voice that welcomes him sounds unnaturally tinny and mechanical. Involuntarily, he tries to turn to it, but he doesn’t succeed. “These coordinates aren’t supported” the voice caws, “follow me.” As he enters the building, he sees a little boy running after a ball; the boy is smiling. He spots a second boy, a little older. Undoubtedly, he stood in front of his brother and himself. His parents enter and ask both children to sit down at the dinner table, they don’t seem to take notice of the terrestrial Xenon. He walks up to his mother, his heart beating like mad, touches her, talks to her; she shows no reaction.
Xenon opens his eyes wide; the scene continuing but superimposed by what he sees with his own eyes.
He jumps up, steaming with furor. “They archived my past, filed me like a document.”
Zoë puts her hand on his shoulder and pushes him softly yet vigorously back on his seat. “We aren’t done yet.” Before Xenon could counter her, she has started Virt up again. Xenon perceives a seductive scene, he is at the shore of an ocean; yet the hues and shades seem all wrong, a flawless female body in front of him. He is drawn to her as by a vacuum, he feels her warm skin and his increasing lust – a fleeting thought of Zoë before he surrenders.
Cut!–a new scene.–Five strange creatures sit in front of Xenon. “Sit down!” caws the familiar tinny voice, ” we’ve waited for you. How do you like our art of virtureality? We’re real masters, aren’t we? Now, we don’t want to take you time any longer. Fare well, Xenon.”
Xenon makes a hand gesture, asking Zoë to turn off the interface that maintains the communication with the implant. Xenon knowing that he will have to report to the agency eventually, requests a postponement. I’d like to remind you that your experiences concern the entire humanity, my dear” says Zoë. “And that’s exactly why I’d like to be alone right now” Xenon retorts.
Irritated, he grabs for his jacket and escapes from the center without taking further notice of anyone. Arriving at home, he drops on his couch where he tries in his mind to go through what he just experienced. “Alone, really?” he wonders as he discovers the tiny camera on the ceiling.
Creation/revision date: 2000
Premiere: October 28, 2000 at the Mystik und Maschine festival in Münster
Format: Quintet.net piece
In the German version performed in Münster, the virtual narrator uses the Mac OS 9 speech synthesizer to tell the story of Zenon. Hence his strange and somewhat funny American accent.