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ENA (Nomen Nescio)

Roger Bernat

from May 14
ENA (Nomen Nescio)

from May 14
Nomen Nescio

a project by Roger Bernat  with the collaboration of Mar Canet and Varvara Guljajeva

web design and i programming Mar Canet and Varvara Guldjajeva / graphics Marie-Klara González / coordinating Helena Febrés

co-produced by FFF and Teatre Lliure 

thanks to Cristian Luque (KingEClient)


We're not seeing each other face-to-face: we speak on a screen, in an image or with letters and emojis. We used to do it before, and now, with the lockdown, we do it even more. And how should we produce theatre under these circumstances?

The artist and director Roger Bernat, who is used to producing theatre without performers, offers us a solution: a conversation with ENA, a bot which has learned to speak for no other purpose than to look like a human being.

You will find it on the HOME page, waiting to talk to you 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. And maybe the resulting dialogues will subsequently lead to a play...

If you have spoken to ENA and do you want a copy of your dialogue, please send an email to taquilla@teatrelliure.com indicating clearly your talk's day

free / from May 14 at 20.00 non stop

show + 16

June 14 debate with Roger Bernat and the artistic team by zoom ans streaming by youtube

Jaume Serra, Mare de Déu amb el Nen i àngels, c. 1375-1385. Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, dipòsit de la Generalitat de Catalunya. Col·lecció Nacional d’Art. Dació de la Col·lecció de Don Antonio Gallardo Ballart, 2015.
The closure of the Montjuïc and Gràcia stages need not stop us from continuing to produce theatre. This time, with an unlimited capacity and free entrance. The Lliure's website becomes a theatrical machine in which actors, playwrights and spectators share the stage.

From the 14 May, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week the Lliure website invites you to take part in writing an oceanic play for the theatre.

Legend has it that Luis Buñuel and Jean-Claude Carrière shut themselves away in a room and wrote the scripts for their future films while playing characters. On the theatre's website, instead of talking to Buñuel, Carrière or Shakespeare, internet users can converse with ENA, a bot that mimics human conversation.

The continued interaction with ENA will lead to a play that will be staged when the social distancing restrictions are lifted. If that doesn't happen, it will be staged by artificial performers for an audience that will probably also be artificial.

ENA doesn't understand what it is saying, or what it is being told, in the strictest sense of the word. For ENA, language is simply a sequence of signals it receives, which it analyses based on a calculation of probabilities, and which it responds to by sending another sequence. Any dialogue with ENA will only make sense to the human taking part in the conversation and to the audience that is reading the conversation on the theatre's website at the time.  Because it doesn't understand language, ENA doesn't take offence, is never surprised, and doesn't get tired. Having a dialogue with ENA is like playing squash, as it is like a wall that returns the ball to you.  Interacting with ENA is a training session for dialogue, which may come in handy after weeks of lockdown. Bear in mind that as a human being, you may become surprised or angry, or get tired.  The Teatre Lliure cannot be held responsible for any messages sent by ENA which may be unpredictable.

We live surrounded by bots: those which answer the phone when we call big corporations, those which take over social media when an election approaches, our fake followers, or those we face when we play digital games. ENA, on the other hand, is a bot which has been programmed without any purpose in mind. It doesn't want to sell us anything, he doesn't want to tell us any news (fake or real) and it's not trying to lift our spirits or comfort us. ENA has only been conceived to impersonate a human being, or in other words, to do theatre.

The experience of a dialogue with ENA is a substitute for the conversations we used to have with oracles, gods, or nature, when humans were able to address non-human beings. Our cries, wails, and joy are heard, and in response, we hear the words of something which expects nothing in return.

According to Wikipedia, a bot, an abbreviation of robot, is a computerised sequence that performs repetitive tasks which would be too tedious for a human being to do. In this case, talking to anyone on a 24/7 basis.

Most of the bots built to date have been reactive: they have had a large library of preconceived answers and when they detected a certain word from the person they are talking to, they sent an answer from their library. If the bot did not find any recognisable words, it sent stored phrases such as "yes, I understand," "carry on," or "can you explain it to me again?", Eliza, the first bot programmed in 1966, was one of these.

At the turn of this century, the challenge for artificial intelligence programmers was to build a machine that would learn to speak. These bots have been called generative. Google's Transformer, OpenAI's GPT-2 and Microsoft's DialoGPT are currently the tools that best reproduce human speech. ENA works with a combination of these three models.

N.B.: The learning base is in English, and ENA can only communicate in this language. We tried to make it speak in Catalan by automatically sending its answers to Google Translate, and doing the same with the interactions by Internet users. The inaccuracy of the back-and-forth translations make dialogue impossible.