"It bridges visual art and performance."Photography by Rebekah King with permission for Varsity

The medieval fantasy that is Faust has always presented a multi-faceted tapestry of human foibles. Now this timeless treasure is coming to Cambridge in one of its most interesting forms yet. The Faust Shop, is an augmented theatrical experience modeled on and derived from the Goethe play based off of the legend of Dr Faust who famously makes a pact with the devil for his soul. But this piece explores a different kind of bargain- the kind we make every single day with the technology surrounding us.

“It bridges visual art and performance”

Co-directed and co-written by Annja Neumann and Alexander Mentzel, Mentzel says they ‘were inspired by the effect technology has on our daily lives, the kind of agreements that we make. We’re always giving up more than we get back, which is the foundation of Faust. Faust does not get back as much as he gives up. So that was sort of the jumping off point, and its an hour long site specific, immersive, augmented reality, theatrical installation. That was the idea behind it, that it bridges visual art and performance. We’ve been collecting donations from various publics around the UK and around the world, who are creating visual art around this theme, and that will go up into the gallery’.

On the 16th and 17th of June, the Sook in the Grafton Centre will transform into a professional and ethereal retail entertainment. You’ll be welcomed in, begin negotiating the question of what you give up, and then watch the Faustian tale unfold, all while considering your own bargain. The piece has been a deeply collaborative effort. ’The digital donation has just been an open call for submission so that’s been from, academia, freelance artists and from the general public: a call for digital objects that describe your relationship to technology and the Faustian pacts. We also have a key partnership with Anglia Ruskin university, Dr Kirk Woolford over there has been doing a lot o digital design and motion capture as well that will be inlaid in to the digital environment throughout the performance. Then, after reading their manifesto on virtual travel we reached out to an architecture firm called Space Popular and they have been an artistic consultant on the virtual environments in which Faust shop takes place. Finally our commercial partner Sook provides a unique space where Faust’s story unfolds.

“What encompasses our digital souls?”

The Faust Shop sets out to ask the question, what encompasses our digital souls? Every like and post and emotion and all the actions we put towards the detritus of our online data, what if that were to gain consciousness? What if all that could reach out and shake your hand? This exploration is modeled off the Homunculus in Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s Faust story. It is an alchemical creature, borne of Faust’s scientific endeavors. Ultimately the Homunculus is striving for life, and in Faust Shop its the quest to create an artificial life. Mentzel says one of his favorite moments is ‘ when we dramatise this striving for artificial digital life. I think its a beautiful moment where we make the audience more aware of the artificial things that surround them. The screens, the tech. I think it will distance them from their normal relationship with them.’


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As said in Faust: 'Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!' The Grafton Centre on the 16th and 17th of June provides an unmissable dreamscape.

The Faust Shop is playing at the Grafton Centre on the 16th of June at 15:00 and 19:00 and on the 17th of June at 14:00 and 19:00