How experimental Dakh theatre embodied the art in digital space

Founded in 1994 by cultural changemaker and avant-garde theatre enthusiast Vlad Troitskyi, today Kyiv-based experimental contemporary theatre Dakh Theatre is the trendsetter of developing synergies between classical and contemporary art, culture, and tech, unite communities, cities, countries, and representing Ukraine on the global stage. Several existential phenomena on the Ukrainian and global cultural stage is a spin-off from the Dakh Theatre, an ecosystem of art collaborations, unprecedented synergies and cultural & tech inventions, and a magnet of exceptional talents.

Vlad Troitskyi with Nova Opera

Being the graduate of the radio engineering faculty of the National Technical University of Ukraine “Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute,” Vlad Troitskyi set up the school of modern theatre. As a result, Dakh Theatre revived the theater milieu and became the magnet for multidisciplinary artists to implement bold ideas into reality. 

Thanks to creative energy and talent, the Dakh team for decades develops the cultural environment in Ukraine, educates, inspires, and impress the audience every year with new projects – some of the most powerful:

DakhaBrakha

  • Founded in 2004, DakhaBrakha is a world-music quartet of the Ukrainian multi-instrumentalists Nina Garenetska, Olena Tsybulska, Iryna Kovalenko, and Marko Halanevych that perform traditional Ukrainian songs in nontraditional ways, making compelling tunes by stitching together its native folk melodies with a grab bag of unexpected styles from all over the globe.
DakhaBrakha: Live at October Palace, Kyiv, 12.12.2018 Photo by Kirai Gigs

Dakh Daughters

  • Founded by Vlad Troitskyi in 2012, Dakh Daughters is an intellectual freak-cabaret consisting of seven women who play various instruments and sing in different languages and dialects, creating an incredible mix of music and performance.
    «Make up» – a musical album (2021) and performance by actress Dakh Daughters band that combines documentary stories of actresses without makeup. This is the quality of duration of the relationship between people and the character whose name is the artist. The play gives us an idea of its phenomenon and paradox, its sacrifice and gift. To say that you are an artist is a shame, because in general it seems that the life of an artist is a continuous holiday. And only he knows what is behind these festive scenes. The actresses’ makeup is conveyed not by «branded» makeup – a bleached face with puppet makeup, but by the quality of the stage presence, similar to a bleached face. This basic neutral cover unites different characters, different destinies, different sounds and voices of each band member.
Album cover Design by Oleksandr Kosmach

NOVA OPERA

  • Founded by Vlad Troitskyi in 2014, NOVA OPERA is a group of young Ukrainian artists whose aim is to search for new ways of developing music theatre, create new synthetic genres and experiment with untypical music and stage performances. Presented in China, Austria, USA, Denmark, Poland, France opera «IYOV» (music by Roman Grygoriv, Illia Razumeiko) became the top 10 modern music operas globally, which are combined opera requiem for the first time in the world history oratory. Among other contemporary operas dream-opera “UnSimple”, opera-circus “BABYLON”, opera-ballet “ARK”, trap-opera “Wozzeck”, drama per musica ”Hamlet” – music by Roman Grygoriv, Illia Razumeiko; improvisation opera “Coriolanus” – music by Anton Baibakov; re:post-опера “LE” – music by Serhii Vilka, Andrii Merkhel, Yana Shliabanska.
Re:post opera “LE”, 24.02.2021 Photo by Artem Galkin

The opera «LE», directed by Vlad Troitskyi and the formation NOVA OPERA transforms the mummified image of Lesya Ukrainka, showing her as a living person, a fighter, an educated educator who laid the foundations of Ukrainian statehood, inscribing Ukrainian culture in the world context. The opera is divided into micro-scenes, symbolizing the various states of the poet and writer: from lyrical to rebellious. The premiere of the opera took place in the central atrium of the Ukrainian House in Kyiv. The action was complemented by a light show and video projection that unfolded 360 degrees on all levels of the atrium.

GOGOLFEST

  • Founded in 2007 by Vlad Troitskyi, GOGOLFEST is an international multidisciplinary festival of contemporary art consisting of theatre, music, visual, education, children’s program, and residences, and combines all directions. For 14 years, the festival was held in Kyiv, creating a platform for communication between artists of different spheres, between Ukrainian and foreign formations in all kinds of art. GOGOLFEST received the official label of EFFE (Europe for festivals, festivals for Europe) and got in the Top 5 EFFE Laureates Award
GogolFest 2010, Independence Square, Kyiv, Ukraine (September 4, 2010) (Performance by DAKH Theater and Spanish La Fura Dels Baus Theater) Photos by Julia Weber

GOGOLFEST in numbers:

  • 15 years
  • 6 cities of Ukraine

Over the years, GOGOLFEST has taken place in Kyiv, Mariupol, Ivano-Frankivsk, Vinnytsia, Kherson, and Dnipro.

  • 600 thousand spectators
  • 1 GOGOLtrain – this is the first art train in Europe with ambitious plans for the future.
GOGOLTRAIN/KYIV-KHERSON 2020 Photo by Anastasiia Mantach
GOGOLTRAIN/KYIV-KHERSON 2020 Photo by Anastasiia Mantach
GOGOLTRAIN/KYIV-MARIUPOL 2019 Photo by Anastasiia Mantach
GOGOLTRAIN/KYIV-MARIUPOL 2019 Photo by Anastasiia Mantach

Since 2018, GOGOLFEST is changing the concept and launching local international cultural festivals across the country GogolFest Inoculation. The main traits of the festival are the involvement of local artists in the festival program in different cities and close cooperation with the local team in the organization of the project. Three grand StartUp festivals (2018, 2019, 2021) have taken place in Mariupol (Startup GogolFest), Vinnytsia (Air GogolFest), Dnipro (DniPro GogolFest), Kherson (Dream GogolFest). They have already started to create the image of the cities, attracting a significant number of tourists and opening the possibilities for dialogue with the world.

From the small underground performances to incredible polyphonic singing by DakhaBrakha and Dakh Daughters on the global stages as well as annual gathering GOGOLFEST with such an unforgettable grand opera and ballet of cranes «Νερό» (Nеrо) at the Azov ship-repairing yard in Mariupol, site-specific event Dniprometey Povstalyi in Dnipro, grand-opening of the festival in Kherson  “And the ship sails on…”, open-air opera “Take off” and music program on the location of the hotel “Frigate”, site-specific performance “BarGa” in Dnipro, special event The Road Home on the Mariupol-Donetsk highway that attracted a huge crowd in Ukraine and worldwide, outstanding Ukrainian Dakh team creates masterpieces which are deservedly recognized in the whole world and during the last years doesn’t leave the pedestal of art.

Special event "The Road Home" by director Vlad Troitskyi with the participation of the band DakhaBrakha. Route H-20 Mariupol-Donetsk, Ukraine. 2021 Photo by Artem Galkin
Special event grand-opera “Νερό”, Mariupol, Ukraine, 2019 Photo by Anastasiia Mantach
Site-specific event “Dniprometey Povstalyi”, Dnipro, Ukraine, 2019 Photo by Anastasiia Mantach
Grand opening “And the ship sails on…” in Kherson, Ukraine, 2020 Photo by Anastasiia Mantach
Open-air opera "Take off" in Kherson, Ukraine, 2020 Photo by Anastasiia Mantach
Music program on the location of the hotel "Frigate", Kherson, Ukraine, 2020 Photo by Artem Galkin
Site-specific performance “BarGa” in Dnipro, Ukraine, 2020

“I am a dream…” – is a monumental light projection, which was built using 3D technologies to the music of DakhaBrakha within “Printemps français en Ukraine” 2021. A showcase of the latest French achievements in the field of technology, the play was created by the company “Spectaculaires, Les Allumeurs d’images” (Rennes), specialist in “high fashion” monumental images. The French Institute in Ukraine decided to present the Ukrainian audience with the musical accompaniment of this performance in its updated form, offering the legendary Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha to write music for it, which the band performed live.

New era by Gogolfest_Laboratory_for_Solutions_in_Digital

What is the Challenge?

When lockdown struck in March 2020, most Ukrainian theatres had to cancel all their in-person events but only had limited experience with digital work. Dakh Theatre was also disappointed and faced lockdown challenges. 

Key challenges:

  1. The impossibility of realizing artistic events
  2. The inability to reach audiences in person, and
  3. A lack of experience and skills in using modern technologies for implementing theatre projects.

Thanks to the actor, producer, and festival curator at Dakh Theatre Andrii Palatnyi, who got knowledge and experience at ArsElectronica and the Academia Digitlitat workshop at Theatre Dortmund, Dakh launched Gogolfest_Laboratory_for_Solutions_in_Digital. This digital lab developed a pioneering digital repertoire, producing the synergy of art and tech for viewers in Ukraine and worldwide. 

Renaissance project ETC (CCA Dakh Theatre / Ukraine)

What is the Solution?

  1. In the first two months, Andrii developed “The School of the New Type of Acting.” working on three digital projects: Alambari, Zoom Time [SMUTA], and Book Tasting

After that, he represented a three-part way of thinking about digital activity.

  • An online adaptation for an offline product. This could be classical streaming of a show or online acting
  • A digital-only product, built specifically to exist in a digital space
  • A digital product that is created with the express strategy for later bringing it offline.

“For me these are three different ways of thinking, but all of them work if you agree with the concept that offline-online is a synergy. All three of the prototypes could be split into three boxes”, – said Andrii Palatnyi in the interview for European Theatre Convention (ETC).

Technical connection scheme

PHASE 1 within #GF_LSD called prototype testing

From the beginning of quarantine (end of March/end of October 2020), #GF_LSD was created as an instant response of CCA DAKH and GogolFest to lockdown. An international online flashmob Alambari #Together At The Same Time was held, which set the record of Ukraine as the first digital prominent event. The cycle of the first Book degustations, which includes 97 video parts was tested. 2 seasons of the first, digital, theatrical series Zoom Time [SMUTA] were created and held. The premiere of the theatrical television play LORENZ.IO [ROMEO MEETZ JULIA] took place online in the format of the digital bridge between Mariupol and Dortmund. 3 interactive online/offline mobile exhibition-installation was created in different cities of Ukraine. Swiss-Ukrainian co-production «TO OUR SAVAGES SOULS» was presented online and offline. Also, the play «We are leaving» by the top director of Europe, Krzysztof Warlikowski was streamed twice to the Ukrainian audience. And digital residencies, such us [Overlaps – monsters of humanity] – a multidisciplinary experiment that was tested and presented online. 

PHASE 2 called the formation of digital repertoire

From November to December 2020, #GF_LSD hosted 44 digital events, which consisted of:

4 new premieres, (7 events).
3 international streams of productions abroad
2 book ‘tastings’ (live animation and reading)

7 educational lectures in GOGOLAB
24 series of international digital residency in several countries
1 online flashmob

PHASE 3 called the formation of a new type of theater, which consists of:

  • digital alphabet
  • development of a new actor’s school, in the concept of “my gadget-my stage”

This phase was marked by participation in the European theatrical manifesto of the Renaissance project, the premiere of the unique digital product ALONE [DIGITAL ODYSSEY], on which closed laboratory work was carried out for six months.

  • ALONE [DIGITAL ODYSSEY] – online/offline performance. A history about the journeys of the protagonist, a wooden puppet, between two worlds. One of these — mirrored — native and familiar, filled with gods and mythology, and the other is metallic, which becomes the embodiment of loss and loneliness.

What are the final results?

THEATRE + MUSIC+SIMULTANEOUS CLIP/FLASHMOB

During quarantine the Gogolfest_Laboratory_for_Solutions_in_Digital team created a digital product Alambari, a unique blend of art and documentation, digital and physical worlds that represented a new form of interaction at the intersection of the digital and physical worlds. During the performance at the same time, 18 theater teams and independent actors gathered online 150 Participants from 23 Countries and 57 Cities looked at the sky to the music of DakhaBrakha, performed the same actions in different spaces.

THEATRE+INTERACTIVE INSTALLATION

But when the lockdown was finished, the team went offline with this project and created an offline installation. Gogolfest_Laboratory_for_Solutions_in_Digital believes that projects can be transformed afterward from online to offline. So, they built a moveable installation, which combined all the digital artifacts that were developed. This installation has visited different cities and different site-specific spaces. The show was projected in various interesting ways – on the ceiling, on pillars of a 100-year old building. There was also a strong interactive component, with in-person audiences being able to stand in front of cameras and see themselves projected onto the walls alongside recorded content.

«ENTER THE LAB»: online-training with Madeleine Bongard, Mariupol, Ukraine, 2021 Photo by Anastasiia Mantach
Підпис: Digital hall in Fastiv, Ukraine, 2020 Photo by Oleg Pereverzev
Digital hall in Mariupol, Ukraine, 2021 Photo by Anastasiia Mantach
Digital hall in Dnipro, Ukraine, 2020 Photo by Anastasiia Mantach
Digital hall in Kherson, Ukraine, 2020 Photo by Anastasiia Mantach

“It was also a laboratory of behavior, to see how audiences interact between technology and art. [One audience member] intuitively took his gadget and started to act with it. This is also what I say: Digital is not only an adventure for theatre-makers, it’s also an adventure for audiences.” – said Andrii Palatny.

THEATRE+GAME+TV

LORENZ.IO [ROMEO MEETZ JULIA] is a Ukrainian-German theater project initiated by the Goethe-Institut Ukraine together with the GOGOLFEST and the Akademie für Theater und Digitalität in Dortmund. Theatrical part is created simultaneously by two teams: Theatromaina in Mariupol and Kulturbrigaden in Dortmund. It’s a digital bridge between the two scenes of the two cities, 20 «scenes» just at everyone’s home!

LORENZ.IO [ROMEO MEETZ JULIA]
LORENZ.IO [ROMEO MEETZ JULIA]

THEATRE+DIGITAL RESIDENCY

Interdisciplinary Swiss-Ukrainian performance «To our savages souls» was performed as a Ukrainian premiere in the frame of the VianFest in October 2020 in Kyiv. This is a free adaptation of the erotic-crime novel by Boris Vian (Vernon Sullivan) «We’ll kill all the ugly ones». Made by two companies, GOGOLFEST and the Swiss theatre company Dyki Dushi, it was a combination of online streaming and offline format with live acting on the stage.

THEATRE+EDUCATION

GOGOLAB – an educational platform that consists of seven lectures about flagship projects of the Laboratory, technologies for their creation, ideas for future transformation, the digital market, a new interesting experience that the team gained during the lockdown, and a new type of communication with the audience.

ГОГОLAB - digital educational project within #GF_LSD

THEATRE+FASHION

  • Human Draft

Human Draft – the performance at the intersection of art, fashion, and technology, a brush test, when there are kilometers between the artist and the canvas, and the smartphone screen remains the only connecting link. The Swiss artist Marianne Hollenstein painted the clothes of the Ukrainian brand FINCH using a digital pen and live models became her canvas in real-time.

FINCH x Marianne Hollenstein fashion art performance “Human Draft”, DniProGogolFest, Ukraine, 2020 Photo by Anastasiia Mantach

“This is a story about changing. We lost a lot. We lost all of our repertoires. I’d worked on it for several years – it was my blood, my energy, and I lost it on the first day of lockdown. But I was ready to accept this pain and immediately try to look forward because I think theatre, in general, is much more important. Theatre as a value for society. Theatre as one of the oldest technologies to create a world and analyze the world.”

Major projects and the premiers by the Gogolfest_Laboratory_for_Solutions_in_Digital – don’t miss to discover more about digital theatre and feel groundbreaking experience:

THEATRE+LITERATURE+VISUAL ART

Digital book degustation 

Digital book degustation – the project created regional teams and taught how to take the first steps in digital, based on experiences of participation. Several formats were tested, from digital sets to immersive site-specific performance. Key numbers: 180 texts were read; 8 digital libraries were created, based on topics and focus on the different audiences; more than 60 artists were involved.

THEATRE MANIFESTO

Renaissance (CCA Dakh Theatre / Ukraine) 

Twenty-two ETC theatres, from 18 European countries, have drawn on philosophy, fantasy, and the strain of living under a pandemic to produce an original series of short drama films that are available to watch at home for free from 9 May 2021. In addition, the project was presented offline in digital format-installation as part of the festival StartupGogolFest.

The Center of Contemporary Arts «DAKH» presented its own video work on May 19:Shot in one take, on multiple cameras, this futuristic response to the Renaissance mixes new texts with a Shakespearean sonnet, and original music by renowned «ethno-chaos» band DakhaBrakha symbolized the aesthetics of canvas as weaving «the canvas of life».


Renaissance…is a rebirth when you realize your roots and begin to move upwards – to the manifestation of life… to the light…it’s a reflection about life and death… about who you are in this world… why you’re here… and the formation of dreams…there’s a dream in the Renaissance… the emergence of the joy of life… the sense of human dignity… multi-talented and versatility… the premonition of a dream of a new life… which may be utopia? The allusion of a classical civilization … perhaps ruined … forgotten … There’s the aesthetics of canvas as weaving – weave «the canvas of life». The modern world is in disarray… There is an ideological and aesthetic generational divide in culture. How to find a common «language of encounter»?

Key achievements by #GF_LSD

Dakh’s digital repertoire is now increasingly established. From November 2020 to June 2021, they hosted  62  digital events, which consisted of:

  • 6 new premieres, including (15 events).
  • 4 international streams of productions abroad
  • 11 book ‘tastings’ (live animation and reading)
  • 7 lectures in GOGOLAB
  • 24 series of international digital residency
  • 1 online flashmob

The legacy of the #GF_LSD presents dozens of new prototypes and formats:

Also, you can watch the panel: European Theatre Convention (ETC) Discussion – International Online Theatre Festival 2021 with the participation of Andrii Palatnyi 

Special event "The Road Home" by director Vlad Troitskyi with the participation of the band DakhaBrakha. Route H-20 Mariupol-Donetsk, Ukraine. 2021 Photo by Artem Galkin

Special thanks to the Dakh team for comprehensive support and assistance!

The project “Boosting local traditional industries with IT capacities” is implemented by TechUkraine in partnership with APPAU – Association of Industrial Automation of Ukraine, International Association Culture&Creativity Association with the financial support of the German government through GIZ that aims to increase the competitiveness of traditional industries in strong collaboration with Ukrainian IT companies. 

Kudos to the team:

  • Iryna Supruniuk, Editor
  • Inna Stelmakh, Creative Producer

GF_LSD team:

  • Andrii Palatnyi
  • Viktoria Fedoriv
  • Mariia Yakovenko
  • Alina Danylova
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