Café Machina 2021

Medium: Interactive Performance with Winch Motors

Performance by Levin Ifko and Bomi Yook

Filming Assistance by Halen King

Piano by Eun Ko

Café Machina questions how technology directs our relationships, our reality, and our experience of the world. Viewers peek into a strange and eerie room where machines are navigating humans through the darkness. Two performers are blind-folded and bound to two motors. The machines pull them inward or release them outward, circumscribing their mobility and placement across the space. The blinded performers grasp into the darkness, hoping to grab hold of anything in what feels like an abyss of existential uncertainty. They stumble into objects, walls, and occasionally each other.

When the machines loosen their grip, they enable a wider span of movement for the performers and the possibility of encountering each other. When the machines tighten their grip, they tear the performers away from one another, to become lost in the dark once again. Relationship becomes a highly mediated event through the technology that both connects and separates people. As the motors steer the performers around the darkness, they come to dictate what things, discoveries, and losses the humans experience. What is shown to the human is mediated through the frame of technology that decides what is revealed at particular moments and places.

The piece explores technology as a “mode of revealing” that circumstances reality. (Heidegger p.11, p.13) Through the machine-navigation of the performers, viewers experience how technology situates and orients people and things in the world. Under the orchestration of the machines, things appear out of the dark into the seeable- to be presenced, to be known, to be felt, and to be held. These systems and mechanisms structure the becoming of our world and our becoming in the world.

As the frame that “unconceals” reality, technology holds the power to render a particular kind of reality. (Heidegger p.11, p.13) It dictates the order of who or what gets to be seen and associated, in particular conditions and encounters. (Bucher p.5) As we increasingly depend on technology for its programmatic curation and instruction to help us navigate our daily lives, technology comes to program our realities. (Bucher p.3) They direct us where to go, who to meet, who to date, and what to buy. They create an image of how things should be and who should be what. We become the implementors of this image, when we we move, plan, buy, or build according to its representations.

The realities we have come to know and the sociality we have come to take part in, may not be ours at all. Café Machina performs technology as the gatekeepers that demarcate our experience and existence in the world.


Bucher, Taina. “Introduction: Programmed Sociality” If … Then, Algorithmic Power and Politics. Oxford University Press, 2018, pp 1 -10.

Heidegger, Martin. “The Age of the World Picture,” The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, trans. William Lovitt, New York, Harper and Row, 1977, pp 115-54.