Rooftop Productions • Presence | null | Rooftop Productions • Hong Kong Theatre Company

PresenceBe present together in the real world, remotely.

Presence is a new online platform created by Rooftop Productions (HK) and Hong Kong media artist Kenny Wong Chi-chuen. The platform allows remote participants to navigate a real physical space, and interact with people/performers/other participants using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). 

Presence was conceived during the peak pandemic period in Hong Kong, when face-to-face interaction was strictly limited, and live performances and venues were shut down. As a collective of theatre practitioners and programmers, we decided to create Presence as a live performance form during lockdowns, that, unlike zoom, would also have a spatial and physical dimension, leading to more of a feeling of co-presence in the space, and more agency for participants.

The first stage of the project took place from Jan-Mar, 2021, in a storage warehouse building in Hong Kong, culminating in 14 performances.  Each performance allowed 4 participants to take control of the individual ROVs, while up to 50 observers could join and take control of which camera/audio feed they wanted to view, including ROV views, as well as CCTV overviews, and live chat.

Performances took place in both Cantonese and English, allowing participants to join from anywhere in the world. Performers began by teaching participants how to control their ROVs to move around the space, and communicate with them via TTS, leading to task-based interaction and exploration. In the company’s warehouse, performers related the real stories of the objects (documented form the company owner) in a non-linear way depending on what participants took an interest in, much like curators, eliciting questions and interactions, creating a sense of intimacy with the participants. This storytelling form enabled us to address important social issues in Hong Kong, in particular the current wave of emigration in the face of the changing political climate; the abandoned objects hinting at their owners’ reasons for leaving.

This project was commissioned by Freespace, West Kowloon Cultural District, and as part of The Future of Performance series.

ProgrammerIvor Houlker
ProducerMichelle Li
MechatronicsKenny Wong Chi-chuen
Video DesignerChan Tsz Ho
PerformersMichelle Li, Arisa Yasaratne
Project AssistantOwen Hui
Special thanks: Canaan Moving Co. Ltd., Phoenix CheungThanks: Puma@Artocrite (for being there), Joyce Cheung@Music Lab (for allowing us to use her music from Set Loose)

For the best experience, please prepare a desktop or laptop computer with a stable WiFi connection and a pair of headphones/earphones.

You can choose to join as:

  1. Participant: You have control of an ROV; you choose what to see and where to go.
  2. Observer: Not able to control anything in the space as of yet, but you can see the perspectives of all the different participants.
Presence Short Introduction

Venue: Online