Upload © Dutch National Opera i
What if our minds could live forever? Recent advances in artificial intelligence and neuroscience mean that we will soon be able to map our memories and experiences, and to use these data to build a digital consciousness identical with our own. These ‘whole brain emulations’ will be able to carry on indefinitely after our deaths: a way of virtual resurrection. But where do our identities really reside? In our minds, our bodies, or our relationships? And how far do the data of our lives determine our fate? Upload will explore these ancient philosophical questions against the backdrop of present-day and near-future technologies.
Dutch National Opera and its co-commission partners DoubleA, Opera Cologne, Ensemble Musikfabrik, Bregenzer Festspiele and Thompson Arts Centre at Park Avenue Armory will co-produce the World Premiere of Upload, a new opera by Dutch artist Michel van der Aa. Extending the groundbreaking achievements of the 3D opera Blank Out, Upload will tell its story through live action, motion-capture, and immersive film.
Upload tells the story of a father, who suffers a severe trauma, and a daughter. It features two timelines: the present (shortly after the upload of the father) and the recent past in which the upload process takes place. In these flashbacks, we see the technology used for the uploading: motion capture (physical movements are captured in an animation), foley recordings (of the sounds on stage).During this process the physical body dies. The father is treated by a psychiatrist and two technicians in a Swiss laboratory. Conversations with family and friends with all kinds of memories emphasize the failing of memory and implicitly the inaccuracy of the upload process. In between we see moments from the present: the daughter wasn’t aware of her father’s ardent wish to be uploaded in order to reduce his trauma. This process fails; the father puts his fate in his daughter’s hands. She has to decide whether or not she will delete him, a form of digital euthanasia.
Michel van der Aa will be the composer, director and librettist of Upload, in close collaboration with the artistic and technical teams with whom he also created the highly acclaimed productions Blank Out and Sunken Garden.
Michel van der Aa
Composer, director and librettist
Scenographer and lighting designer
Thompson Arts Center at Park Avenue Armory