How we can experience a VR performance with our whole body, with our skin, our eyes our ears, our movement in space?
“Inhibition” is a multisensory immersive experience inspired by Adolfo Bioy Casares’s novel, “The Invention of Morel”. The project reflects ideas upon perceived reality and states of confinement. Everyday life consists of the experience of inhibitions and barriers; physical or mental, external or internal, related to our own consciousness and in relation to others. In this performance, the body is an instrument to interpret, experience and overcome them.
The project combines VR technology with biosensors, capturing the changes of the body during the performance.The biofeedback along with multilayered stimuli constantly informs the virtual space, challenging the participants to rethink their own subjective reality.
We are placed in an abandoned island,a deserted paradise living in our own repetitive realities.
Selecting the Narrative
In the story of Adolfo B. Casares, the concept of confinement is apparent in the whole plot. The barriers become the whole sea and the confined space an abandoned island. The protagonist is a fugitive. The whole book is a journal about his experience on this island, and his unexpected cohabitation with a group of mysterious visitors, to whom he is invisible. Eventually, he finds out that all these people are artificial ghosts, constructed by a machine, invented by Morel. Strange natural phenomena are visible when the virtual and actual worlds overlap, like the coexistence of two moons and suns. This machine projects a whole reality, repetitively. For 7 days, these visitors had been photographed, their sensory vibration and sensorial engagement with the environment had been recorded and then projected as a totality that resembles their real bodies. According to Morel, this machine seeks to recreate life and approach eternity through human consciousness.
At the end of the book, the protagonist imagines a future where these machines could be integrated into our everyday lives, giving the chance to each of us to construct its own little paradise/reality. We will then live in a world that all these “disjoint presences” converge.
For us, the confinement is not only expressed through the spatial barrier of the sea and the absence of civilization. It was also the incapability of the protagonist to connect with the others, which delineates the concept of inhibition as a state of consciousness. Each character is confined to its own reality; the protagonist is sentenced to see the others but never meet them, and the others are sentenced to live eternally in this confined repetition of the 7 recorded days. The function of Morel’s machine also inspires us and intersects with the complementary relationship we seek to explore.
We propose a set up where the main Participant wears a Vr Headset and different biosensors; a heartbeat sensor, a Gsr and a breath sensor. Multiple people/visitors are also in the room. Their position is tracked and visualized in the headset, but the main participant cannot interact with them in the VR space.
The person in VR is immersed in an environment of point-clouds inspired by scenes from the book, that play in sequence with audio effects and voice over, creating a multisensory narrative. The biodata from the sensors trigger changes in the visuals of virtual space.
The participant understands that his own body affects his experience, providing him a sense of agency over the performance.
This project reflects on the challenges that Vr tools in correlation with other mediums, could offer on the levels of audience engagement in performances. Driven by the thought that the complexity of the human body, concerning the different modalities and sensations, could lead to more engaging audience experience, this project is an attempt to investigate how we could experience a VR performance with the totality of our body. The alienation in VR is translated in the boundary between virtual and physical space during the experience.
The idea of the feedback between physical, and virtual or the actual and fictional underscores the statement that virtuality resides not merely in its insistence on the dynamic nature of actualization but in its conception of creativity as a two-way process. (Ryan, Marie-Laure, 2015). In this project virtual, involves a mental operation that leads from the here and now and the solidly embodied of the actual performance-space, to the timeless, multiple, versatile, repeatable, immaterial, and morphologically fluid of the narrative.
What different narratives could be mediated when multiple media converge with VR technologies?
Experimentation – Technical features
We focused our research on ways of collecting biofeedback. According to scientific researches, sensors like Gsr correlated with heartbeat sensors, and breath capturing, can be interpreted as signals of arousal and valence, these values point to emotions but don’t define them. These data in our performance are related to the key moments of the narrative. We group these data in climaxes of negative or positive states, and states of high or low intensity. The performance is this back and forth relationship between these moments of the plot and the unseen effect in the participant’s body.
The participant becomes the epicenter of the performance because his embodied data and his movement in space affect the VR world and the narrative that he constructs.
The performance is based on a linear structure of scenes based on the plot of the book. The rate of change in arousal values impacts the sequence and the speed of these scenes. The levels of arousal point to active or passive moments, in which new elements of the environment are revealed. The valence threshold can alter the colour of the VR space. Each participant sees the same narrative, and audio stimuli, but his reaction to them leads to experience the performance subjectively.
For future development, we are focusing on enhancing this metaphor of overlapping realities, by including moments of pass-through camera moments in the VR, where the main participant sees the physical space of the performance. Structuring a non-linear narrative, with moments referring to past, future or present of the protagontist, in correlation with the multiple media that we incorporate (audio, voice over, projections) is also a challenge for us.
The goal of “Inhibition” is to create a temporal manifestation that happens to and between the participant/performer, participant/spectator, and what is presented, mediated and represented.
Every single individual engagement of performance and spectatorship generates a distinct experience of reality. Thus how the narrative unfolds or time passes, to be subject to variation and multiplicity.
- Andrius Dzedzickis, Art?ras Kaklauskas & Vytautas Bucinskas, 2020. Human Emotion Recognition: Review of Sensors and Methods. Sensors (Basel, Switzerland), 20(3), p.592.
- Bioy Casares et al., 2003. The invention of Morel / Adolfo Bioy Casares ; translated by Ruth L.C. Simms ; prologue by Jorge Luis Borges ; introduction by Suzanne Jill Levine ; illustrated by Norah Borges de Torre., New York: New York Review Books.
- Dixon, S. & Smith, B., 2007. Digital performance : a history of new media in theater, dance, performance art, and installation / Steve Dixon ; with contributions
by Barry Smith., Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Lampros Perogamvros, 2013. Consciousness and the Invention of Morel. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 7, p.61.
- Ryan, Marie-Laure. Narrative as virtual reality 2: Revisiting immersion and interactivity in literature and electronic media. Vol. 2. JHU Press, 2015. Page 36