If we think about people we meet in real life, our memories tend to reduce them to a few key characteristics. Maybe the person in mind tends to wear a characteristic piece of clothing, repeat a certain body posture, and maybe a few key phrases, saying, 'Mm-mhmm', 'Oh!' or "I don't know" repeatedly during conversation. Often, we don't remember much after having a conversation with someone, but maybe we remember a key sentence and a few key attributes of the movement, sound or look of a person.

Most storytelling, in one way or the other, makes use of these key reductive characteristics to portray the more or less complex characters that are part of narratives. The reduction of personal attributes to a handful of key ones, has especially been a defining feature of computer game characters, as hardware limitations in the past made it completely necessary that a character's features should be described within very low-poly 2d or 3d models. The tendency of old-school computer game characters to be heavily stylized and often have elaborate and characteristic voice acting, such as the original G-man from Half-Life 1, was adopted in AFTERLIFE in the creation of our characters.

The visual attributes of the G-man in Half Life 1 could be reduced to: Blue Suit, Suitcase with Black Mesa Logo, strange square haircut, and pointy facial features.

We wanted our characters to embody interesting combinations of look, voice and movement, so that their complexity emerges in the friction between contrasting but clear-cut embodied characteristics. Similarly to the idea of 'armour' provided by the use of auto-tune as described above, we wanted our characters to be made in such a way that even the most ridiculous or farfetched irl gesture would translate to something interesting or at least coherent inside the 3d world on the screen.

AFTERLIFE: The characters repeat movements in the sand, overuse the words 'Yeah' and 'Mhm' as responses to big questions, and tend to emphasize silences between question and answer. They often state that which is already shown, in a naive and childlike way, and are devoid of a complex inner psychological world that would make them able to lie, abstract or deceive. It is in this stylized naivety and simplicity that the piece aims at making the characters relatable and likeable, so that the audience eventually can identify with them on a deeper subconscious level as they make their way through the contrasting signs that build the storyline.

The idea of digital armour has been explored in terms of motion capture and avateering before, notably by Tianzhuo Chen in 'Exo-Performance' and Royce Ng in 'A Polyphonus Avatar' and 'Nostalgia Machines'

Exo-Performance by Tianzhuo Chen (2019). The piece explores the use of digital and irl costuming, the idea of armour, dance, and the relationships between possessing and being possessed by a real and a virtual body.

Royce Ng: 'A Polyphonus Avatar' (2021). Like many of Royce Ng's pieces, the performance uses remote controlled motion capture from his location to control an avatar, which essentially could be rendered anywhere in the world in real-time.

I had been exploring interactions between virtual and real bodies in earlier pieces: In '~SOFT~', two real performers are filmed in front of a green screen and projected into a virtual world. The audience sees both scenarios simultaneously and in the friction between the raw, unfulfilled potential of the green screen framing, and the completed, 3d-saturated framing, an interesting exploration of control and embodiment occurs.

Tobi Pfeil: ~SOFT~ (2021). Note that this video only shows the saturated, 3d-universe-perspective of the piece.

In Unlimited Void [2021], a man falls in love with a 3d character, and decides to give up his physical body, to transcend into the digital realm and live with her there. The piece touches upon some of the digital nostalgia, and longing for a life beyond physical form, which is also thematized in AFTERLIFE, and similarly explores the relationship and interplay between an IRL and a virtual universe.

Compared to my older pieces, AFTERLIFE takes the exploration of a relationship between irl performers and virtual characters to a whole other level. In fact, similarly to Exo-Performance and A Polyphonus Avatar, it is in the avateering itself, in the relationship built between the performer and their character, that a contemporary form of emotionality is thematized - mainly the emotionality between bodily and virtual self. The virtual character, who is seemingly passively controlled by the performer, also subconsciously transforms the performer's irl self. Heavily restrained and influenced by the characteristics of their avatar, the performer is forced to make choices that are expressive and in accordance with the logics of the virtual universe and the setup. Thus, the virtual character is also heavily influencing the expression and emotionality of the controlling body. Thrughout the piece, gestures and interactions are emphasized which stress and make use of interesting relationships between performer and avatar. The avatar, like a drag alter ego, offers a freedom and an opportunity to the performer, to embody characteristics that would have been ridiculous or simply too one-dimensional to embody in a real-life social context. It is in the one-to-one, realtime relationship of simultaneously controlling and being controlled, and in the mutual embodiment of each others attributes, that a profound and unexpected intimacy between human and machine avatar emerges - allegorical of the traditional relationship so often discussed in philosophy, between spirit and matter, or mind and body.