Marcel.lí Antúnez Roca


The presentation of Epizoo at FILE 2006 coincides with the 12th anniversary of the first presentation of the performance, in Mexico City. At that time, mobile phones were used by very few people and the World Wide Web took its first steps. Since then, Epizoo was presented about 150 times. Those presentations include cities in Asia, North America, South America, and Europe. Epizoo was produced with (and it still uses) a technology that today is historical: a 486 processor, 100 MHz, Windows 3.11 operating system. In spite of that, it maintains its freshness and its symbolic force. The performance represents, without knowing it, the Systematurgy manifesto; literally, a dramaturgy of computing systems. A methodology that I used later in my mechatronic performances Afasia (1998), POL (2002), Transpermia (2004), and Protomembrana (2006). However, Epizoo discusses, perhaps better than any of my later works, the paradox between the Dionysian body and the Apollonian technology. The performance users, at the same time spectators, operate with a merciless artificial technology while they tele-manipulate my sensitive and vulnerable body. The text below was written in 1995, and reflects the original intentions of the piece. EPIZOOTY, from Spanish “epizootia” – Espasa Calpe Ency­clopedia: (from epi and zootia) A disease that attacks one or several animal species through infection, parasites, atmospheric influences or intermediary guests. ­Epizooties sometimes spread to wide areas and emerge without warning and irregularly; other times, they are limited to a small area and appear with a certain regularity and persistence; then they are called enzooties. It is the equivalent to “epidemics” for human beings. Some of those diseases are transmissible to humans, as it happens with rabies. Introduction One of the major artistic discussions is about the technical supports that the artistic disciplines are adopting and will adopt. As in the Renaissance the invention of the oil painting technique allowed a prodigious development of that medium, the new techno-scientific galaxy brings so many new possibilities that it is impossible to be alien to it. The Epizoo performance is born as a response to the possibilities offered by that phenomenon, and it applies the computer technology as a central element of the performance/installation. Description Epizoo It retakes one of the old Body Art themes: the exhibition of the artist’s body, but adapting it to the new possibilities offered by mechanical technologies and computer sciences. The result is a hybrid of performance and installation. Formally, the piece consists of a series of pneumatic mechanisms attached by two metallic molds to the artist’s body. Those artifacts have the capacity to move different parts of the performer’s body and face, such as the nose, the buttocks, the pectoral muscles, the mouth or the ears. During the performance, Antúnez is standing as a living statue on a rotating platform. The mechanisms are connected to a system of electro-valves and relays that depend on a computer. This is equipped with a software program that graphically generates up to 12 animated environments. Those animations recreate the artist’s figure and indicate the position of the mechanisms the spectator interacts with. That same program synchronizes sounds and music that illustrate the infographs, the lights that illuminate the performer’s and the machine’s movements. On the main screen, placed behind Antúnez, the images generated by the computer are retroprojected, making them visible to all spectators. But Antúnez’ attitude is not passive, and besides the pneumatic mechanisms he counts on a personal computer to amplify his voice, and a videocamera. Projected on the screen, the camera images enlarge the mechanisms’ effect. The performance happens as follows: the public enters the room where all the Epizoo elements are installed, while on the main screen the instructions to use the graphic interface and to the performance in general are activated. After the public enters the space, Antúnez appears and dresses the pneumatisms (pneumatic mechanisms), the videocamera and the microphone. Once that ritual is finished, the first screen of the game lights on and, one by one, the spectators who wish so can play. Antúnez answers to the stimuli with his voice and the videocamera. The Epizoo user meets not only a repetitive environment, but also the active performer who expresses new registers. During approximately 25 minutes, a certain number of spectators become users of the performance. After that time, the game stops, the Epizoo production notes appear, Antúnez undresses and the session is over. Differently from the traditional performance or the installation, it is the spectator who controls the piece’s course and form. In a teledirected act of pleasure and torture, the public manipulates the artist without soiling their hands. Intentions Marcel.lí Antúnez went one step beyond in artistic experimentation, and he gave birth to a perverse mechanism, loaded of disturbing meanings. Epizoo is a metaphor of the way as sexual relationships are established. From the emergence of the Aids epidemics to now, the mentality about sexual relationships suffered an important change. Establishing a physical-affective relationship with another body, with safety warranties, goes through the preservative. Epizoo is a contraction of “epizooty”, and it intends, by that title, to indicate the idea of infection. The fact that the mechanism allows moving only the parts of the human body which sex manuals consider erogenous zones, and avoids the movement of extremities – which would bring it closer to the idea of a puppet – highlights this notion of erotic intervention. The anonymous lover, the spectator, on a distant lover’s body, Marcel.lí. Epizoo crosses with other tele-relationship forms, as the paradox of the videogame’s virtuality before the living body that suffers its effects. Or as the irony about phone services that enable a sexual communication. But the user/subject relationship with that of the performer/object is not only an erotic or ironic relationship; technology opens other ways of intervention. The clearest of them is, perhaps, cruelty. Consciously or unconsciously, the user becomes, besides a telematic lover, his torturer. Epizoo forces its users to assume an ethical position. The temporal sequentiality is a basic constant in the constitution of music, literature or scenic arts. Epizoo’s hypertext breaks the sequentiality and opens other ways of intervention. With his/her decisions, the user navigates and determines the game’s environments, controlling the work’s temporal form. He is, in a certain way, co-responsible for the “dramaturgy”, and so becomes the piece’s subject. The computerized image of Marce.lí Antúnez is the game’s basic icon, and a central element of the interactive environments. Those animations go from a pleasurable state in the first interactive environment, “Cel florit”, to the unpleasant and obscene “Extrem Golem”. Other environments can take to dreamlike places, as “Somni” (the sobbing that is not heard) or EAX. In Epizoo, Antúnez is the real and virtual center of the piece. It is not about an actor who interprets a certain role, but it is the artist himself, as it often happens in the most orthodox performances, who shows his face. That attitude moves him away from classic theater – in which an author writes for actors – and it moves him away from acting. Epizoo doesn’t have a gender; it cruises in the diffuse boundaries of scenic arts or visual arts, and it considers necessary a revision of the taxonomy of arts and of the market practices. What the digits allow is a fusion of artistic activities and occupations. And theoretically they should simplify the technical difficulties determined by certain handmade practices. But what really matters in Epizoo are its creator’s intentions and point of view, that is, its contents.

Marcel.lí Antúnez Roca (Moià, 1959) is well-known in the international art scene for his mechatronic performances and robotic installations. In the 90’s his vanguardist mechatronic performances combined elements such as Bodybots (body-controlled robots), Systematurgy (interactive narration with computers) and Dresskeleton (the exoskeleton body interface). The themes explored in his work include: the use of biological materials in robotics, as in JoAn? l’home de carn (1992); telematic control on the part of a spectator of an alien body in the performance EPIZOO (1994); the expansion of body movements with dresskeletons (exoskeletical interfaces) in the performances AFASIA (1998) and POL (2002); involuntary choreography with the bodybot, REQUIEM (1999); and microbiological transformations in the installations RINODIGESTIO (1987) and AGAR (1999). He is currently working on the spatial and utopian artwork TRANSPERMIA. In the early 90’s his performance EPIZOO caused a commotion in the international art scene. For the first time a performer’s body movements could be controlled by the audience. By operating a videogame, a spectator interacts with the bodybot worn by Antúnez, moving his buttocks, pectoral muscles, mouth, nose and ears. This performance stresses the ironical, and even cruel, paradox rising from the coexistence between virtual digital iniquity and the performer’s physical vulnerability. Since the 80’s, Antúnez’ work has been based on a continuous observation of how human desires are expressed and in which specific situations they appear. First in the tribal performances of La Fura dels Baus and later, on his own, he expressed this interest by creating complex, in many cases hybrid, systems, hard to classify. Antúnez’ works belong to the fields of both visual and scenic arts. From the early 90’s, the incorporation and transgression of scientific and technological elements in Antúnez’ work, and their interpretation by means of unique and specific devices, have produced a new cosmogony – warm, raw, and ironic – of traditional themes such as affection, identity, or death. In his works these elements take on an extremely human dimension that causes a spontaneous reaction in the audience. He was also a founding member of La Fura dels Baus, he worked in this company as art coordinator, musician and performer from 1979 to 1989, and presented the group’s macro-performances ACCIONS (1984), SUZ/O/SUZ (1985) and TIER MON (1988). Antúnez has presented his work in numerous international venues, including La Fundación Telefónica in Madrid, the P.A.C. in Milan, the Lieu Unique in Nantes, the I.C.A. in London, SOU Kapelica in Ljubljana, Cena Contemporânea in Rio de Janeiro, the Barcelona MACBA and the DOM Cultural Center of Moscow. He has performed at the International Festivals EMAF Osnabruc Germany, Muu Media Festival Helsinki, Noveaux Cinema Noveaux Medias Montreal, DEAF Rotterdam, Spiel Art Munich, Ars Electronica Linz Austria, DAF Tokyo Japan, among others. Antúnez’ work has appeared in the following publications: Il Corpo Postorganico, by Teresa Macrì, ed. Costa & Nolan Milano; Body Art and Performances, by Lea Vergine, ed. Skira, London; Marcel.lí Antúnez Roca performances, objetos y dibujos, by Claudia Giannetti, ed. MECAD Barcelona; and the catalogue Epifania published by Fundación Telefónica, Madrid, among others. Antúnez has received the following awards and distinctions: First Prize at the Festival Étrange, Paris 1994; Best New Media Noveaux Cinéma Noveaux Médias Montreal 1999; Max New Theatre award, Spain 2001; FAD Award Barcelona 2001; Honorary Mention at Prix Ars Electronica 2003 and Premi Ciutat Barcelona 2004, multimedia.