Excerpts from a session testing out simple emergence situations. Recorded at CLOUD Danslab, Den Haag, NL

 

Situation

IMMERSION AND INTERACTION

 

Initial Statement:
Immersion is the excrement of action [1]

 

Even though ‘immersion’ and ‘immersive experiences’ are very much the buzzword in todays creative design discourse (and by that I mean all discourses on art, experience design, and more), I had a very hard time to wrap my head around what it really is, what draws makers to it and how to utilise it truly.

While the concrete definition is vague, most people agree that ‘immersion’ is a something, which is characterised by a deep mental or physical involvement from someone. The nature of the something is often disputed as well as the identity of the someone. We refer to technological tools as being immersive, as well as media, and design, as well as immersion is something that people do, or immersion is a sensorial experience, or some kind of all-over-everywhere sensation.

But for the sake of simplicity, here is my take on the subject:
In my practice, immersion is a state which the participants of an experience can tap into through action. 
Immersion itself is not simply an action, or an event: it does not happen purely by deciding to be immersed, nor does it befall on one just like that. Rather it is something that happens due to an intricate and intimate interplay between the participant, her fellow participants, and their joint physical and social space. 

It is an immediate state, it works first hand (immediate in space), and it is and becoming it at once (immediate in time).
It is present in time, while also creating time, rather than just filling up an empty space. There is nothing super esoteric or spiritual about it. If one can fall asleep each night, and wake up each morning, one goes through the dual state of being and becoming, every day. You are transforming, and you do it every day. There is no greater magic than that.

The importance of immersion that it is a precondition for transformation to occur. Participants who are immersed in an experience are characterised by the embodiment of themselves, an engagement with their environment and empathy towards others.
That is why it is crucial for the reality inside the Magic Circle (the social, temporal, and spatial territory where a different reality takes place) to truly become transparent for the participant, thus providing understanding and invitation for creation.

This is the same principle of transparency all media operates by (including media that is self-referential - the Circle is just drawn a tad bit wider in that case).

But for action, and thus immersion to happen, one must be invited to and step into a reality that offers Understanding, Agency and optionally Arousal for action. 
The points, Understanding (a set of constitutive rules and advices - What?), Agency (assignment of possibilities - How?) and Arousal (an individual or collective intentionality - Why?) are pretty much the same points of how most of our own social reality is constructed. What I’m interested in my practice at this point, is to provide participants with a such a set of conditions as a base for open-ended experiences. 

The first experiments were derived from  warmup exercises, used in theatre and dance practice. These exercises provide a very simple dynamic framework, that are designed to get participants into moving and interacting without the pressure of doing something wrong (see video excerpts above).

In later stages, simple roles were assigned to each participant. The introduction of 'roles' serve a triple role:
- First, roles are one of the most accessible alibis for interaction. It removes the responsibility from the person and onto a third entity. Eg. "I didn't do this or that, my character did".
- Second, roles help the creation of culture Can easily present the participant with a context, of what and
- Lastly, roles trigger Secret Fiction, and thus a vast, unpredictable number of narratives and thus stories arise within each experience.

The roles introduced were non-dramatic, allowing open interpretation and narratives to unfold. Players were usually assigned no more, than a name of a colour, a slight alteration of their movement, or simple restrictions in interactions.

At this point in my process, new discoveries, informations, and possibilities just became intoxicating, overwhelming and paralysing. To move on from here, I needed to put aside all for a while and start out from nothing and nonsense.

[1] the quote is from Gabriel Widing's amazing talk - Bodies in live action role-play

 

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