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The writer and his double animatronics

A writer's robotic replica evokes his bipolar disorder. More disturbing than the Westworld or Black Mirror series.

A chimera between the human and the animated android to express the unease of an obligation to exist and perform.
A chimera between the human and the animated android to express the unease of an obligation to exist and perform.

The writer and his double animatronics.
The writer and his double animatronics.

For Uncanny Valley, director Stefan Kaegi (Rimini Protokoll) has created a unique new documentary theatre laboratory. The living German writer, Thomas Melle (3000 €, Die Welt im Rücken, Versetzung), converts into video projections with his biomechanical replica that allows him to escape the vertiginous weight of living and talking about himself on a set.

What remains of humans when they disappear was already addressed in another production of the German collective on death, Nachlass, a stroll open to the spectator and made up of "plays without actors".

Hybrid humanity

Can the original human author get to know himself better thanks to his double electronic, whose movements and expressions are limited? This conference, held by an electronic puppet, addresses the subjects of reality and artifice. This is in a thought close to the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard already used to illuminate the Matrix trilogy and the dystopic TV series, Black Mirror, Westworld or Real Humans.

Thus, social groups identify themselves with legitimizing and meaningful matrices through which groups or individuals represent themselves as a copy in conformity with nature, morality or reason. Without forgetting to question the motivations of being in the theatre of the spectator who came here to contemplate the muted reflection of his social and intimate concerns. "The theatre allows us here to live and suffer through this identification with the android", says Stefan Kaegi.

The android shows the back of his head, a machinery that evokes the universe of Jacques Vaucanson, inventor with demiurgical dreams of imitating life through sophisticated automatons in the 18th century. We come to the conclusion that the outsourcing of the writer's body is accomplished: "After sharing the part of my mind that I extracted for my book, I have now externalized my body and I can let him do tours and all the unpleasant things."


Uncanny Valley, whose text Thomas Melle co-wrote with director Stefan Kaegi, echoes his play Transfert (Versetzung). It challenges the power of the normative in the school microcosm, representing normality, integration and consensus, and addresses our mental health. To be bipolar is to lead a life that knows no causality. The disease deprives "bipolars" of their past and further threatens their future.

The play explores the intermediate zone between android and human, evoked by the Japanese robotics professor Masahiro Mori under the name "uncanny valley". Or the disturbing familiarity created by a humanoid robot that no longer looks like a machine. But not quite to a human - between the really different and the perfectly similar, both finally more acceptable.

Bertrand Tappolet

Photos: Gabriela Neeb

Rimini Protokoll website:


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