Mugwumpin Company Member Ray Oppenheimer on the development of The Looking Glass Self One of the things that I am interested in is the democratization of technology, lowering the barrier for the creation of high quality digital falsehood. As a tool to explore this loss of autonomy and ease of creation we decided to experiment […]
About This Artist
Mugwumpin creates live art that ignites radical collaboration, empathy, and curiosity. Situated at the intersection of dance, theater, multimedia and visual art installation, Mugwumpin’s original performances push against formal boundaries and create sensory rich, physically rigorous, and theatrically innovative experiences for audiences.
Mugwumpin was formed in San Francisco in 2004 with the aim of reinvigorating live performance as a communal event. Since then, the ensemble has created 14 full productions and many durational and smaller scale works. Outside of the Bay Area, Mugwumpin has been presented by BAW Theater (Paris), Brotfabrik Theater (Bonn) and the Cairo International Festival of Experimental Theatre.
Mugwumpin’s last full-length production, “In Event of Moon Disaster,” sold out a month-long run at Z Below, won a Theater Bay Area Award for Projection Design, was nominated for an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Visual Design, and was highlighted as “exactly the combination of whimsy, curiosity and dedication for which…Mugwumpin is known” (Lily Janiak, San Francisco Chronicle).
“The Looking Glass Self” reunites many of that production’s collaborators, including Michelle Talgarow, Natalie Greene, Wolfgang Wachalovsky, and Ray Oppenheimer. This event is a part of Mugwumpin’s 15th Anniversary Celebration, and continues our trajectory of breathtaking artistic experimentation.
Michelle Talgarow, a Kalmyk-Pinay Bay Area theatre-maker for over 20 years, specializes in the collaborative process in devising new work. She has strong roots at the EXIT Theatre where 2 of her murals can be seen. In addition to being a Mugwumpin company member, Michelle has been fortunate to have worked with many other local companies including Shotgun Players (Company Member), The Ground Floor at Berkeley Rep, Central Works, Impact Theatre, Ferocious Lotus, Cutting Ball Theatre, Magic Theatre, and Bindlestiff Studios.
Natalie Greene is a multidisciplinary performing artist who has been performing, teaching and creating in the Bay Area since 2003, and has served as the Artistic Director of Mugwumpin since 2016. She teaches in the Department of Performing Arts & Social Justice at the University of San Francisco. Her work has appeared at California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco Airport, Children’s Fairyland, Shotgun Players, ODC Theater, Dance Mission, Z Space, as well as in schools, senior centers, and site-specific locales throughout the Bay.
Ray Oppenheimer is a lighting designer, educator, creator who has been bringing his boundless curiosity, chimerical aesthetic, and a sisyphean perseverance to lighting design and education since 2005. Ray has been dabbling in modern manufacturing and prototyping techniques creating whimsical one of a kind art since 2008. He received his MFA in Theatre Arts with an emphasis in lighting design from SFSU in 2017, and is currently a company member with Mugwumpin and Shotgun Players.
Wolfgang Wachalovsky is a director-turned-designer with a special emphasis on video in performance and how to integrate video/projections into the performative space. This includes creating fully immersive video environments for audience and performers, live video manipulation and perspective shifting with video. He is a proud company member and the former Managing Director of Mugwumpin.
About this Project
The Looking Glass Self is an immersive theater experience with movement and video, focusing on how truth and lies interact with technology. As we live with information at our fingertips, we navigate many forces which try to prescribe our realities. Video is no longer a credible source of truth. Footage is routinely manipulated, spread quickly through social media, and filtered through online mob mentalities; this provokes real-life consequences beyond the screen and beyond the subjects’ control. Anyone with a powerful home computer can create “Deepfakes”—realistic videos which place someone’s face on someone else’s body—and new face-swapping technology is being created everyday. We do not know what we can believe, and our laws and ethics are not prepared for the potential impact on politics, journalism, criminal justice and elsewhere.
The central questions of this piece are best summarized in the lyrics of an original song:
Do we even know the truth or how it was conceived? If we cannot tell a lie then what would we achieve? How do we deceive ourselves, and what will we believe? When truth won’t get us what we want, how do we proceed?
The Looking Glass Self offers audiences an embodied experience in which they realize the capabilities and potential impact of truth-altering video technology. As audiences interact with reality-warping visuals, they witness the manipulative proficiency of video editing processes in real time. “The Looking Glass Self” includes movement, comedy, live feed video, sophisticated projection mapping, and consensual audience participation. It’s science fiction on stage, like “Black Mirror” in theatrical space/time, with a visceral urgency created through audience interaction and body-based performance. We hope to create an atmosphere of deep inquiry—one where this unsettling subject matter is imaginable through aesthetic experience, where beauty, fun and artistry make way for new possibilities and serious contemplation.
Artist photo by Battista Remati. Cover photo of Super:Anti:Reluctant by Battista Remati
#NotABugSplat A little girl’s face stares towards the clouds in a meadow, a place where drones fly as often as the birds. Her face covers a massive portrait printed by a group of artist-activists as part of an installation titled #NotABugSplat. Since 2004, drone strikes in Pakistan have killed over 3,000 people, including a large […]
June 11, 2019
The Tenderloin Art Lending Library (TALL) is a queer-artist-run project that lends artwork to Tenderloin community members free-of-charge. TALL is a trust-based program where artists—the majority of whom are homeless, formerly homeless, and live or work in the Tenderloin—donate artwork that is available for loan to any member of the Tenderloin community free-of-charge. TALL is […]
Journey for Wisdom and Empowerment A key part of my artistic process for “Metamorphosis” is to connect with nature and my indigenous Peruvian roots through shamanic dance to invoke healing and strength. Shot by Life Escobar. Directed and performed by Mabel Valdiviezo Una parte clave de mi proceso artístico para “Metamorfosis” es conectarme con la […]
A Reflection from CounterPulse’s former Development & Engagement Fellow Leaving the academic world can be jarring for most people. It’s incredibly easy to feel aimless and misdirected without an imposed colonized structure thrust upon you for the first time ever. As a recent college graduate from a “socially conscious” Jesuit university, I’m lucky to […]