Artificial Intelligence (AI) and AI art are the flavour of the season. Questions about ethical concerns and the omnipresence of AI are everywhere. This weekend, Bangalore International Centre hosts the Future Fantastic Festival, an AI and new media arts fest.
The festival has AI art exhibits, conversation between experts, workshops and performances.
One performance that really caught our eye was Climateprov — a unique improv theatre performance that utilises a custom-made AI platform to raise concerns and awareness about climate change.
For the first time, human cast members will share the stage with an AI bot. Theatre practitioner Gaurav Singh Nijjer talks to South First about how the team created this platform and what we can expect from the performance:
Q. Tell me a little about the Future Fantastic Festival and your part in it.
A. Future Fantastic is a first-of-its-kind AI and new media arts festival in India and South Asia. The artists behind Climateprov first met during the BeFantastic Within Fellowship. This was an online fellowship that was organised in 2022 and brought together technologists, coders, artists, movement practitioners, and other creative individuals across four countries to explore AI as an artistic collaborator. At the end of the fellowship, they invited proposals from the fellows for further funding and support. It was here that we came together and pitched Climateprov. Our pitch was successful, and we have been working on the project since then.
Q. So, what is Climateprov?
A. Climateprov is a first-of-its-kind interactive theatre performance that provokes a conversation about climate emergency through the humorous, absurd and intriguing interplay between human and AI performers using generative AI and human inputs. As an improvised theatrical performance, Climateprov does not have a fixed storyline or plot, but rather relies on the creativity and spontaneity of the performers to engage the audience in an absurd, and thought-provoking exploration of climate change through generative AI.
The performance itself is interactive in nature and begins by introducing the human performers and the AI to the audience as well as the basic tenets of improvisational theatre.
The performers then ask the audience for suggestions like a fictional climate crisis facing their city in the future or a recent news headline they read about climate change. The AI and human performers then improvise together in real-time to craft playful narratives that offer a unique perspective on the subject.
Through fun games and story structures, the human performers lead the AI and even, vice versa. At one point, the AI takes over completely, leading to some memorable moments on stage. The show is powered by a customised technical application and design built by the artists, that is still being perfected to uncover new possibilities of play.
In improv, the use of audience suggestions (ie, an input) to spontaneously create a story (ie, an output) has many parallels with how AI also functions. Improv’s nature to extrapolate meaning from seemingly unconnected prompts and generate a cohesive story is similar to how a generative AI model also works.
Q. What is the custom-built AI application you created?
A. Climateprov uses a custom-built AI application that integrates speech recognition, text generation models like GPT3 and GPT 3.5, and text-to-image generation models such as DALLE and Stable Diffusion. The AI is then visualised and presented to the audience on the stage, allowing them to have a visual reference of the technology and interact with it in real time.
Q. What are the main themes of the show and how are you addressing it?
A. In addition to its focus on climate change, Climateprov also explores the unique interplay between improvisation and AI, which has never been seen before in Indian theatre. The show aims to introduce audiences to this new format of theatre, and many may be new to improvisation itself. Through this combination of traditional theatre techniques with cutting-edge technology, Climateprov seeks to push the boundaries of what is possible in theatre and create an immersive and thought-provoking experience for audiences.
There is also the localisation and contextualisation of the scenes presented to the location of the performance. At our work-in-progress shows, the human performers and AI worked together to build scenes around the froth issue in Bellandur lake and even the flooding that happened at Outer Ring Road in Bangalore.
Ultimately, the show encourages audiences to think critically about the role of technology and art in addressing critical issues such as climate change. By combining improvisation, AI, and theatre, we hope to engage audiences in a way that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.
Q. Who are the cast members and actors in the show?
A. The cast members, performers and collaborators in the show include Blessin Varkey (India), Gaurav Singh Nijjer (India), Monica Hirano (Brazil), Marie-Eve Hildebrand (Switzerland), Ranji David (India), Tajinder Singh Dhami (UK), Tiz Creel (UK) and an AI performer who doesn’t have a name yet, but is very excited to join its human co-performers on stage.
DETAILS: Entry free. 26 March, 5.30 pm and 7.30 pm. At Bangalore International Centre, Domlur.