Fronte Vacuo is a bastard performing arts group. Founded in 2019 in Berlin as a response to the convergence of ecological disruption, socio-political polarization and technological advance, Fronte creates hybrid performances and live art events as social experiments. Owning to the decade-long interest and experience of its militants in defying boundaries across art genres, across bodies and across digital technologies and bioengineering, Fronte exists to reconceptualise the rules of live art. Bodies, symbionts, sounds, AI machines and images interweave with one another, coagulating into pulsing and tumultuous ecosystems. Fronte ongoing work Humane Methods casts a critical eye towards the complex imbrications that make up humans’ contemporary landscape, reflecting on the myriad violences of human-nature-algorithmic entanglements.
Before the foundation of the group, Fronte co-founders have collaboratively conceived, created and produced internationally acclaimed dancetheatre pieces, award-winning artistic experiments, and scholarly publications. As individual artists, each member has been working across performing arts, media art, music, and bioart for over fifteen years. Fronte would not exist without its allies – a group of artists, designers, scientists, programmers and engineers – and without its research network – a local and international community for artistic and scientific research in the performing arts, art&science and technology.
HUMANE METHODS, 2019-present
Humane Methods (2019-present) is the first, ongoing project of artist group Fronte Vacuo, recently co-founded by Marco Donnarumma, bioartist Margherita Pevere and visual artist Andrea Familari. Humane Methods consists of happenings and stage productions that act as rhizomes: the project is an amorphous cluster of different performative events that share the same theme and the same fictional world.
The project reflects on how, presently, environmental destruction and socio-political polarisation converge with artificial intelligence (AI) in a new kind of violence: an algorithmic brutalisation of everything that lives. While the autonomy of artificial intelligence is often touted as the future of humanity, technology-driven climate destruction, racist bias, micro-targeting and “fake news” demonstrate that, when used unethically, AI increases social violence.
Humane Methods poetically reflects on this form of violence by immersing the audience in the perspective of the bodies – human and non-human – that experience it. The stage productions created so far – ΔNFANG (2019), ℧R (2020) and ΣXHALE (2021-22) – combine in different ways performing arts with technology and the human with the non-human to reveal algorithmic violence through sensory, physical and ahuman strategies. It is an aesthetic research into how a synthesis of symbols, movement, music and AI can enable posthuman forms of empathy.
The core of the project is the loop, an idea and a tool found in algorithmic computation, species evolution, animals’ sensorimotor systems, musical composition and choreography. Each piece in Humane Methods begins with a loop that is repeated endless times. With every repetition comes a dramaturgical variation and thus stories and relationships ramify continuously. The plays create their own language of symbols, gestures and unsaid rules, constructing thus a world that is, at once, fundamentally abstract from and profoundly intimate with the ‘real’.
By further developing the transdisciplinary aesthetics of Donnarumma, Pevere and Familari’s independent work, the Humane Methods performances bring together dance theatre, bio-art, interactive music and light, and AI technology. Transdisciplinary in nature and intent, the pieces integrate procedural dramaturgy, living set design, ritual choreography, audience participation and specially tailored AI systems to question not only the ethic of algorithms, but also that of human individuals.
Humane Methods is made possible by long-lasting and close collaboration among the members of Fronte Vacuo and a team of artists, designers, scientists, technologists and producers. The project started in the end of 2019, a couple of months before the Covid-19 pandemic struck human societies. The works are currently touring in Europe. So far, the project has been co-produced and supported by Volkstheater Wien (AT), tanzhaus NRW (DE), CTM Festival (DE), Kontejner (HR), PACT Zollverein (DE), Romaeuropa Festival (IT), Centre des Arts Enghien-les-Bains (FR). The scientific institutional partners are Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and Laboratoire de Recherche en Informatique (LRI) at University Paris-Saclay.