Whist - Physical Theatre & Virtual Reality in Sofia
The UK production WHIST arrives as part of the international program of the seventh ACT Independent Theatre Festival. The event is created by АФЕ and hosted by Gallery 2.0
Inspired by the work of Sigmund Freud, the unique spectacle takes place with the help of VR headset in a special environment where art, sound effects and an interactive 360 ° film intersect to create a performance like no other ever.
"The unconscious is the true psychic reality; in its inner nature it is just as much unknown to us as the reality of the external world, and it is just as imperfectly communicated to us by the data of consciousness as is the external world by the reports of our sense-organs."
Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams
Today 17.11 is the last day you can visit the art installation and if you have not booked a ticket in advance, well I must say you are missing out. Yesterday I had the pleasure to join this act and I will share my thoughts on the whole experience. First off, I have to say that this is my first time putting an actual device like Oculus on my head. Sure, I have read plenty about VR and AR and once was about to try one of those roller coaster "games"(there was too big of a queue). Well I am glad that my first "trip" was not only visually impressive but also extremely meaningful.
I am not about to go into detail about the story or describe what I saw because it could spoil your own experience. Here it should be mentioned that the viewer is also a director - plot line navigation is intuitively done by each participant and leads to a different story development. There are 76 possible scenarios.
After detailed explanations by the very nice hosts of the event all of the participants put the gear on - that is an Oculus headset along with headphones. There were various objects in the room that we had to follow in order to progress to the next short story while all of those stories are in a way connected to one another. At first I was a bit worried people would bump in one another but fairly quickly one gets comfortable and the immersion starts. The feeling is like watching a theatre play but you are right there on the stage, together with the actors. There are several moments where I even got startled by a movement of a character behind my back. Just exploring the setting is an utter pleasure. In real theatre where you are in an audience and despite talented performers who grab your attention there could be some almost insignificant noise or movement that makes you turn and lose that special connection, that feeling of escaping reality. Well that is not the case here, one hour passed and it felt like 7 or 8 minutes in which you are completely immersed and after that you crave for more.
After the end of the performance, each participant was presented with a card that had password and a link to a website where you put a number you saw at the end of the act. This is a number that provides personal analysis based on your choices during the performances, it is composed by a psychoanalyst from the Freud Museum.
I think that the place for this event was carefully chosen. While the hosts from Gallery 2.0 were very professional and organised, there was this additional aspects to the whole act. You see, everything is visible for anyone passing on the street. Of course, most look with curiosity and amazement. This I believe serves as a kind of disturbance of daily life, people glimpse for a second into a room filled with people who are not part of the same plane of existence as them, well at least for an hour.
I truly hope that this is not a one time thing and the creators of the project, the artists from the group AΦE, do visit again and organise new events in Bulgaria. Another thing that stayed on my mind after I got back home is this thought that the opportunities with this kind of performances are almost unlimited. We should all keep an eye on how this artistic use of technology develops in the coming years.
Article by Petko Kolarov
Team: Esteban Fourmi & Aoi Nakamura (AΦE) – creators
Jozef van Wissem, Scott Gibbons – composers
Oliver Kadel – 3D sound designer
James Shaw – production designer
Performed by: Robert Hayden, Tomislav English, Yen-Ching Lin, Nina Brown, Steve Rimmer
ACT Independent Theatre Festival 2017 is realized with the financial support of Sofia Municipality.
The project is organized with the financial support of the Ministry of Culture of Republic of Bulgaria and National Culture Fund.
ACT Festival is realized in partnership with DNK - space for contemporary dance and performance, Havas Group Bulgaria, Foundation Artoffice, Goethe-Institut Bulgarien, Institut français de Bulgarie and Израел в България - Embassy of the State of Israel in Bulgaria.
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