Some Thesis Ideas and Explorations
Up until the end of term 2, we were focusing on the dominance of vision over the other senses and how this affects the current way of experiencing our everyday lives. Our proposal for term 2 was a performance, based in a Virtual Reality environment that included physical curated objects in space with sensors that participants would be able to touch. We tried to explore how this interaction would alter the experience of a virtual collage-space, a space in between private and public fragments (living rooms and public transport).
At the end of term two, we confronted the COV ID 19 crisis, our access in workshop and building facilities was restricted, and our everyday lives were distracted. All these lead both of us to search for ways to work remotely, collaborate, be inspired, and motivated. We are still interested in creating a performance in space, that would connect new technologies with the whole human body in a cross-sensory way.
In the past few months, we were mainly focused on theoretical research and readings that will help us support our ideas and use our design project as a means of interpreting theoretical explorations subjectively. The common ground in our research interests is the various ways that new technologies and especially Virtual Reality can offer multiple ways of changing and re-defining the human experience in performances. We are interested in the complementary relationship between Body and VR, mainly because the correlation between these mediums enhance approaches of investigating VR not as an alienating technological tool but as a conduit of expanding embodied experiences. What do we lose when we are wearing Vr headset, how we can use it not to replace human senses but to expand them?
Left: Ocean of Air – Marshmallow Laser Feast, 2018 Right: Cosmos within Us- Satore Studio, 2019
Ideas around Narrative
“We structure our lives by narratives and we understand events in the world in terms of narratives — events of all kinds, in science, in politics, in every facet of life.” (George Lakoff, Srini Narayanan, 2010).
Narratives and stories always have been fundamental means, in the way that the human brain understands and constructs the world that surrounds him. In the context of technological progress and constant innovation that we are experiencing, the role of narration is re-defined and altered. For instance, in technical industries, especially in game development, new ways of creating immersive storytelling experiences based on Virtual reality technology are being explored. As well as in the direction of Arts and Performance, mainly, in ways of using this technology in designing immersive, participatory, or interactive narratives in performative spaces.
“Some of these narratives are conscious, others are very much unconscious. In life-narratives, each of us is the protagonist, living out the narratives as best we can.” (George Lakoff, Srini Narayanan, 2010).
We would like to think of designers as potential storytellers. They design these narratives for multiple protagonists; themselves and others. Designers are always trying to connect worlds, between this conscious and unconscious sphere, between human imagination and realization in physical space. Now Virtual reality tools, and “technical media” (Elleström, 2010) have challenged the very conception of narration and performance, by giving the chance to design in multiple realities and latent spaces (Mixed Reality, Virtual Reality, Physical Space, Digital Space, Data Space, etc).
Driven by theories related to the process of constructing and interpreting narratives (communication theories, psychology), the main goal of my research is to investigate ways that new technologies, especially VR, as mediums, can construct or break barriers in audience engagement with real-time stories. Through analyzing design examples, I would like to understand the relations between media: transmediality, intermediality, and their contribution to the narration.
Left: Thinking Things – George Aperghis, 2018. Right: The Encounter – Symon McBurney, 2016
“if all media were fundamentally different, it would be hard to find any interrelations at all; if they were fundamentally similar, it would be hard to find something that is not already interrelated. Media, however, are both different and similar, and intermediality must be understood as a bridge between medial differences that is founded on medial similarities (Ellestrom 2010, 12).”
Following this thought, I believe that the findings from analyzing ways of transmedial narration across various media in performances (see photos) will be helpful for making further thoughts about the use of VR, integrating them into our design proposal, and creating our own virtual narrative. I would like to focus on the mediums of VR and Body (Mine or the Other), especially in hybrid performances that relate them, in cross-sensory modes. Also, due to the peculiarities both of VR and the human body, the transformation from one medium to another offers different effects in the audience’s participation and various levels of immersion or engagement with physical space.
What are the disadvantages or the advantages of experiencing stories in multiple realities, during the processes of transforming from one medium to another, concerning immersion or sensory engagement with physical space? Are there ways to narrate across mediums, and across multiple bodies?
Ideas around materiality, data and experience
Moving away from the 20th century thinking of material that serves as a representational tool. We moved towards the object, material processes and expressions. We understood the capacity of matter to self-organize and play an active role in its own formation. These theories also affected the art scene. Robert Morris as part of the Process art movement manifested an equally specific relationship between action, site, and material. Eva Hesse creates her own materials in order to express her forms and ideas. In her list of materials, she identified the human body as one of them. Janine Antoni with her piece called Gnaw, transformed an everyday activity (bitting) to a tremendous repeated gesture. In her piece what the viewer encounters is not the action itself but a form that carries evidence of her bodily presence. All these artworks introduce the concept of a material that is inseparable from the body’s actions that form it. In other words, the material has embedded information about the process of its own formation, it’s an augmentation of matter.
Left:Eva Hesse- Anti -Illusion: Procedures/Materials, Whitney Museum NYC 1979. Right top: Robet Morris- Anti -Illusion: Procedures/Materials, Whitney Museum NYC 1979.Right bottom: Gnaw-Janine Antoni, 1992
We are interested in the augmentation of matter in the physical and digital world. In the digital world, the raw matter is substituted by raw data.
According to Floridi “We are not stand-alone and unique entities, but rather informationally embodied organisms (inforgs), mutually connected and embedded in an informational environment, the infosphere, which we share with both natural and artificial agents similar to us in many respects”(Floridi, 2012).
Massumi has also described the infosphere as a homogeneous space of aimless, instantaneous delivery of everything in all directions simultaneously. The human body risks drowning in the unformed sea of information and it must, order and organize, it must form the formless, but to do so, it must shield itself from immersion in it(Massumi, 2005) Right now, we are so overwhelmed of all the raw data and we are unable to actually understand them. The most common way to process data is to visualize them in two dimensions, however, in literature, it is suggested that we should actually try to physicalize them in order to get a better understanding of them.
As Kevin Kelly suggests: “Right now all we can do is see the data, the charts, the curves – but in the long term, we want to able to feel them”. We want to further explore how can we embody data and translate them into an immersive multisensory experience using VR as a main tool.
Future Day Spa- Lucy McRae,2015
Design Scenarios – Possible Worlds
We want to further understand how we can explore the space through our tactile sense. The sense of touch is not limited only in the way we touch something, external from our bodies, but what we feel when we are being touched. How our emotional state changes when are touched by other people, especially now that this relates to concerns of the global pandemic? Under this spatial confinement that we have encountered, how can we reinterpret the space and reconnect with our bodies?
We would like to create a performance that will involve the whole body, of multiple participants and different mediums. We propose a scenographic space, with at least two participants: Participant A that explores the space, and Participant B with Vr Headset. We would like to encourage Participant A to explore the space through engaging (touching with the whole skin) the space that will surround him. We would like to understand his emotional state (collect data from biosensors) and map his experience into the Other participant. Participant B is experiencing an abstract virtual world in the VR headset, the emotional world of the participant A.
Elleström, Lars, “Media borders, multimodality and intermediality“. Springer, 2010.
Floridi, L., 2012. “Turing’s three philosophical lessons and the philosophy of information.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 370(1971), pp.3536–3542.
Massumi, B., 1996. “Interface and Active Space: Human–Machine Design.” In Proceedings of the Sixth International Symposium on Electronic Art, pp. 188–92. Montreal: ISEA
Lakoff, George, and Srini Narayanan. “Toward a computational model of narrative.” 2010 AAAI Fall Symposium Series. 2010.