Immersive film with Sam and Clara…

Posted: 30/04/2010 in Live/Festival/Event, The Verdict
Tags: , , , , , ,

This is cool.

I was lucky enough to participate in a preview of a brand new audience-of-one theatre piece last week. It will be appearing in the Brighton Festival. Entitled When We Meet Again (Introduced As Friends), the second in a series by Basement-supported artists Sam and Clara, it is multi-sensory, interactive and full of to-the-minute buzz words. I’ll run you through the experience.

You are met at street level and offered wine and biscuits. Minutes later you are escorted downstairs by Sam, in a blue and yellow check shirt, through dense darkness into an empty space. He puts a pair of viewing goggles over your head and adjusts the straps so you can see, then you put on the headphones and hear his voice coming through “Is this sound level okay for you?” But you don’t know if the voice is from the man in front of you, or rolling on a tape. Yes kids, it’s genuine C21st virtual reality! Like in the Beano! Amazing.

Then the experience begins.  Clara’s  voice issues instructions: to extend an arm, which I  see before me; to look down at my body, which I find to be Sam’s body. I move my feet  according to instruction. The slightly oversized, slightly too far away feet below me respond accordingly.

What follows is an odd sensation of being bodied, yet somehow disembodied. I can feel another person in the room, waltzing me round to the music on the headphones (or in my case waltzing while dodging my shambling  size sevens)  but I see only grey now. The images and sounds take me through a series  of experiences and I never know whether I am alone in the dark or not. I feel slightly self-conscious, but perfectly safe and still revelling in the coolness of virtual reality if I’m honest.

The unexpected feel of a female hand and shoulder under my extended ballroom frame arms was a pleasant  surprise. Later a hand took mine and  placed a fresh strawberry between finger and thumb. This was the first point at which an incongruity between what I could see in the film and what I was doing really occurred. By this stage I had completely submitted myself to the experience and was obediently awaiting instruction or indication so when ‘Sam’ raised a strawberry to his/my mouth, I did not raise my own hand because I hadn’t  been told to. I’m trying to not to reflect on what this says about me.

The final frame of the film is a message which reads something like “If you are still here, please remove the goggles and headphones and make your way out.” This was a struggle for me as I’d had to remove my glasses to wear the goggles and while the proximity of the screen makes the film pretty accessible for a range of visual impairments, I really struggled with the tiny text on two separate circular screens. Anyway, I got the gist and made my way back up into the brilliant sunshine (eating aforementioned strawberry), where an assistant of the artists’ was waiting to interview me about the experience.

I really enjoyed the immersion. Knowing both the artists and the venue obviously helped, but I did have no idea what the content of the film would be nor how I would be expected to interact. Some people may well feel claustrophobic or disorientated  and the  sensation of being in someone else’s body will certainly unsettle many attendees. I walked away feeling  invigorated though and I must thoroughly recommend giving it a try. Follow the link to find out more about Sam and Clara, their work and where it’s being shown.

In other news, I’m loving Amy Godfrey and I just made myself the most epic hot chocolate I’ve ever  experienced. My teeth hurt, but it’s worth it!

  1. […] Immersive film with Sam and Clara… April 2010 […]

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