In HELLO HI THERE, Dorsen takes the famous 1970’s television debate between the philosopher Michel Foucault and linguist/activist Noam Chomsky as inspiration and material for a dialogue between two custom-designed chatbots: every evening, these computer programs, designed to mimic human conversations, perform a new – as it were, improvised – live talk.
Dorsen further explains her work in an interview with Exberliner.com, “When I first made two chatbots talk to each other, they got stuck on this ‘hello – hi there’ back and forth. The outcome is a juxtaposition of banalities. Even we humans don’t really invent anything new when we talk. It is through the re-arrangement of existing words and concepts that we create something unexpected, something new. This is exactly what the chatbots do [in this work].”
In the tradition of mediaeval mystics such as Ramon Lull and Albertus Magnus, who once strove to build mechanical men with feathers, bronze and levers, aspiring to resolve the most difficult philosophical problems, the chatbots are a contemporary answer to the question of the artificial mind. What world of thought can arise when two computers sit down together and reflect on what they have in common with usPS? The goundbreaking HELLO HI THERE is an intimate collaboration between man and machine – an intelligent and, alarmingly often, creative and funny dialogue on humanity in the age of its digital reproduction.
When HELLO HI THERE premiered in and toured throughout Europe earlier this year, Sigurd Ziegler of Morgenbladet wrote, “Annie Dorsen’s post-human performance puts our understanding of what it means to be human to the wall…the flash of humanity in these machines is not only stunning, and formally flawless, but also significant.” Helmut Ploebst of Der Standard called Ms. Dorsen’s play “brilliant.” And Kleine Zeitung said, “Can machines really entertain? In Annie Dorsen’s "Hello Hi There" they can, and furthermore they manage it in more than 80 million different ways.”
Conceived and directed by Annie Dorsen, HELLO HI THERE has production design by Kate Howard, systems design by Jeff Gray, scenography and lighting design by Edward Pierce, and chatbot software design by Robby Garner.
Obie award–winning director and writer Annie Dorsen works in a variety of fields, including theatre, film, dance and, as of 2010, digital performance. Most recently, Hello Hi There premiered at the streirischer herbst festival, Graz, and has been presented in Oslo, Bergen and Berlin, before arriving in New York in January 2011.
She is the co-creator of the 2008 Broadway musical Passing Strange, which she also directed. Spike Lee has since made a film of her production of the piece, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009, subsequently screened at South by Southwest Film Festival and The Tribeca Film Festival, and was released theatrically by IFC in 2010 before being broadcast on PBS’ Great Performances.