21 Days of Online Sex and Hate, Live on Stage

A family in a forest, with far too much internet access is the subject of a new, 500-hour long play.

Over the course of 21 days and nights, avant garde theatre director Thomas Bo Nilsson will take viewers to the centre of our death drive, hard-style. Through an online platform, a explicit video directed Matt Lambert (premiering below) and a multi-room performance in Vienna’s Schauspielhaus Wien, the Swedish installation artist will explore the net’s darkest corners with his new 500-hour long continuous play Cellar Door. Part game, part performance, part online platform, it’s an open, real-time unfolding through an unreal landscape, with “obscure forums and internet hate culture” as the source text of this immersive work.

Nilsson explains what audience members, who drop in for four-hour chunks, can expect. “Seven characters are equipped with video and sound. From the platform built for the project (Lex Lydia – named after the female main in the short film, playing above), online users can connect, lead and give instructions to these characters. On your way through the installation you will be taken through fragments of seven houses. If you lead your assigned character down below the houses, you will encounter lost souls living in the pits below ground. There are no rules nor limitations for what you as a user choose to say or instruct the characters to do to themselves or each other.”

As in the work of Jon Rafman, Cellar Door deals with the dirty, furtive recesses of online troll-zones like the imageboard 4Chan, and the grim corners of YouTube right-thinking netizens take pains to avoid. Unlike Jon Rafman’s grimy visions, however, there is little comical in Nilsson’s vision of a family gone very, very wrong. Like the horror-show work of Dennis Cooper, it explores boredom, sex, youth and violence. Unlike Cooper, however, Cellar Door’s story of the distressing impacts of immersion in the corners of the internet where fantasies roams could only happen in 2016.

This video prologue, shot by frequent collaborator Berlin-based filmmaker Lambert, takes place 16 years before the start of the play. It follows the conception of a leading character, juxtaposed with footage from a knife-obsessed vlogger and domestic scenes shot in the forests around Berlin. “It’s this escapist obsession with this mythological world that first drew me to the project,” Matt Lambert explains, who previously worked with Nilsson on MEAT, a 2014 play about cannibal killer Luka Magnotta, which clocked in at a short-by-comparison 240 hours. “Like MEAT, these characters are lost in the worlds of their laptops and their dystopias are driven by these niche worlds as well as their economic situations.”

Cellar Door will be performed at Schauspielhaus Wien from April 14 to May 5. Click here for more details.