The White Plague

by Karel Čapek

The White Plague is a play written by Karel Capek, a Czech writer and reporter. This is a collaborative and speculative design in 2020 Prague quadrennial (PQ) common project. In the story, there is a pandemic happening as in our current world. 

We design this site-specific performance at Tate Modern Turbine Hall. It's a space that transformed from a historical power factory into an international modern art gallery. We focus on the industrial texture, the exhibiting function and the spatial capacity and turn it into the hospital and military factories. The whole space is like a massive machine or organism. Everyone can be replaceable. No matter who you are, when you step into space, you are being a part of it already. 

The audience will be given a pair of headphones and a live streaming device. Not only to help them hear the voice clearly but also to represent the intimacy and privacy of the conversation. The acoustic is a problem in the massive space so it's a solution as well. 

We made the costume into 2 layers. Every performer will wear black everyday clothes before they get a job or position in the system. We also play with oversized cutting, puppetry and rusty texture as the unstabilized replaceable and corrupted power representation. 

Designing this performance is a chance to have a conversation with Čapek across time and space. We've been the first lockdown in London and had isolation for 2 weeks during the designing process. We identified the involved questions that Čapek raised and keep raising them as a group of designers.


*This project is selected by the final exhibition.

Designed by: Cheng Keng, Deepanjali, Ingerid Gullerud, Jamie Lu, Xincheng Zhu.

Mentored by: Simon Donger and Joanna Parker

Venue: Tate Modern Turbine Hall

Costume and figure drawings: Deepanjali and Ingerid Gullerud

Digital Model: Deepanjali

Physical Model: Cheng Keng and Jamie Lu

Video: Cheng Keng and Deepanjai

Sound: Jamie Lu