project image
Christa Holka

first performed on October 16, 2013
Performing House, York, U.K.
performed twice in 2013


Mark Jeffery, Judd Morrissey, Justin Deschamps, Sam Hertz, Christopher Knowlton, Blake Russell

Chicago, IL



Anatomical Theatres of Mixed Reality (ATOM-r) is a provisional collective exploring forensics, anatomy, and 21st century embodiment through performance, language and emerging technologies. The collective’s process creates a deeply entangled exchange between the live body and technology, which is ubiquitously present as a data-driven system. “The Operature” is a live performance and augmented reality poem engaging themes of forensics and anatomical science and spectacle. It is a project-specific ecology of source material (from both originally-generated and externally-sampled feeds), internalized as movement, visualized as continuous panorama across screens, and mapped to bodies and geo-physical space through locative and computer-vision based augmented reality. The work is inherently variable, experienced as a tightly constrained but flexible information pattern that allows for close attention, emergence and interruption. We are concerned with revealing the reality of the computationally-mediated body and in foregrounding queer histories of computing.

Choreography, physical and virtual objects and text, and the overall formal architecture are influenced by research into historical archives including early modern anatomical theater, Frances Glessner Lee’s miniature crime scene re-enactments known as the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, and The Stud File, a lightly encrypted autobiographical record of the sexual exploits of Samuel Steward, a 20th century tattoo artist, gay pulp writer, pornographer, and friend of Gertrude Stein. In the work, technology and the body are intricately entangled. The project’s research materials are experimentally embodied by performers as a well-defined movement vocabulary. At the same time, source material—including a central core poem—is constantly present in a variety of manifestations: as visualizations on screens, or lines of text mapped to the 3-D performance space that can be viewed through a mobile device.

At the core of ATOM-r’s performance is an interactive operating table that generates virtual content and can be extended by four additional table-leaves into a large-scale set. Within this set, the choreographed bodies perform an anatomical system. As the elevated surface of the work shifts underfoot, the bodies make reference to a surgery or a banquet.

Each performer has a temporary tattoo somewhere on his body. Based on the designs of Phil Sparrow, an alias of Steward, each design is a visual marker that is recognizable to the ATOM-r augmented reality app. During a duration of stillness, the audience can scan each of bodies with their smartphones to discover further virtual layers of text and imagery.