a play in computers


Starting point of the work is the theatre play by Luigi Pirandello
“Six Characters in Search for an Author” with its debut performance in 1921.
The original title is “Sei Personaggi in Cerca d’Autore”. It is about six theatre
figures without a play. The characters go to a theatre, trying to persuade the
theatre director and his actors to create a play out of their family drama. They
partly discuss and partly live their scenes in front of them. Their attempt fails.

“Sei Personaggi Part 2” is a second try of the “Sei personaggi” to find a
form, a stage and an audience. Mechanically they stick to their family drama,
seeking to repeat their scenes. Without a piece though, they are still left
undefined in some ways, forced to get in action themselves.  As processes they
are now occupying the machinic kernel spaces of networked copmuters and
perform themselves within the RAM modules of these old machines.

The ambivalent nature of the figures is being represented through the physical
conditions of the underlying hardware, which is disturbing the determined
procedures of the software. This spare room is being used as material
for the play and their figures.

Each character is being played by a shell script, reading the character’s
text from the main scene sign by sign. Each sign is being translated into
a command, which is being sent to one of the other characters: e.g. start, stop
terminate. The commands are realized as Linux signals, which is a classic
method for process communication within the Linux kernel. They are being
transmitted over the network and on the receiving machine a signal is being
generated again. The functions of the shell scripts are
the determined part of the system.
As old machines with little CPU and RAM are being used, as the signaling
is following its own internal rules for being worked off and due to the network,
the system as a whole is behaving unpredictable.

The processes controlling each other are the equivalents to the dialogues
between the characters. The play as such is hidden in the kernel and
not directly perceivable. But as the characters need an audience,
there are two acoustical levels used, to make the computing audible.

There are pickup-microphones within the system, most of them placed directly
next to the RAM modules. They transmit magnetic waves to audio signals and
turn the processing to “physical” actions for the audience. The noises of the
pickup-microphones hold a similar function, as the accoustical monitoring of
software in some machines of early computer history. Programmed system
beeps are the second acoustic means to communicate the play:
reading of text and sending of commands.

A crucial part of the production is the specific functioning of each machine and
the used elements, for example the soundcards. They are individually picked,
modified or parameterized according to the character which is being represented.

The question whether the characters are playable, remains.