The upcoming 2024 edition of Highlight Delft revolves around perception. Is everything we see real? And do we really see everything that there is? Artistic director of the festival, Teun Verkerk, explains why this theme is so tantalizing right now. Read more >

Teun: ‘A lot is happening in the digital world right now. New phones are almost all equipped with augmented reality, which allows you to put layers over reality. Some people are already playing with AI that allows them to generate all kinds of images and text with a simple prompt, and soon perhaps even entire 3D worlds. So we can keep adding endless things to the real world in that digital world. Those worlds are sometimes so realistic that we can lose ourselves in it, because what is real and what is not? Maybe there is no difference.’

Lift a tile and see what happens underneath
‘On the other hand, there is a lot happening in the real world that is invisible but has an effect on our daily lives. CO2, the big culprit that is causing climate change with the increased amount in the air, is a great example. We can’t see it, but we can measure it. We are also doing projects this year that deal with soil. We walk on it every day, but no one occasionally lifts a sidewalk tile to check on the worms and plants underneath. Because who cares? But the moment there are no more plants coming out that we can eat, then of course we all have a problem.

It is, I think, about those two things. All those invisible little interactions between particles in our physical world and the digital layers that we try to add to it in order to greatly challenge our own perceptions. To say, almost literally, do you even remember where you are and who you are?

Playing with AI during SH4DOW
‘Whether I ever doubt my own perception? SH4DOW is one of the headliners of Highlight 2024 and I think anyone who goes to see this show will doubt their perception. In this show, an actress performs along an AI, which is depicted as a three-dimensional machine. The actions of this AI are generated based on data from the audience. Thus, each performance is unique.

The actress told me that she cannot predict seventy percent of every performance. You see the environment changing all the time. For example, at certain moments there are things on stage that at first appear to be real and the next moment turn out to be a projection. At that moment, as a spectator, you look at the stage and think, hey, was there something there or did I dream it? So you really start doubting your own perception tremendously.’