Jul 312018
Reflections from our Research Week at Knowle West Media Centre

In May we had a great week at Knowle West Media Centre conducting research and developing the Figuring process through participatory workshops, exploratory sessions and public sharing events. With individuals from a wide variety of specialisms taking part in these investigations, it was hugely exciting to see dancers, technicians, scientists and designers exploring in the same space together.

Here are some reflections from the week….

Joseph Hyde, a composer, enjoyed being amongst such a range of people and concepts:

“I’m really excited to be involved with Figuring. It’s a really exciting combination of elements – art and science, virtual reality and live physical performance. An amazing group of people too…”

Documenting the process, our cinematographer Adam Laity loved working in such a progressive, multi-disciplinary context. Experiencing VR made him reflect on the transition between virtual and physical worlds:

“…the strength of the week lay in the fact that the emphasis was on creative play and inclusivity…conversations that come up when you mix scientific theorists, sonic artists, programme designers and movement practitioners have the space to go in directions that are inspiring and sometimes very unexpected. It’s a very progressive and proactive way of working- and this feeds straight back in to work…

…For me the biggest realisation was putting the VR headset on for a few minutes- that was all I needed to understand the scope and power of the medium…It’s a whole new frontier of experience and exploring the place of ‘we, the human’ in worlds both physical and virtual. And this project is investigating some very fundamental ideas about how those very different spaces might interact, and what we might be able to bring from the one space into the other- specifically in terms of senses other than purely visual.”

Dance artist Will Dickie considers entrapment, escape and the virtuality of theatre:

 

“Can we…escape a reality that has us feeling trapped?…In leaving one reality I arrive in another, in releasing a bond the relationship sustains itself in a new way, a memory, a repulsion, a distancing. Could accepting transformation free us from the need for freedom? Could accepting and transforming the use of technology free us from the fear of a future that is cold, unnatural and inauthentic?…

 

…Perhaps theatre could be thought of as the virtual spaces created inside us when mind is the dominant sense. Can we make a modern virtual reality experience, without the electric technology?”

Dance Artist Ben McEwan drew many comparisons between the process itself and the string-like materials we used to explore it:

 

“…Immediately it became clear we had all brought along our languages, slang and jargon, mostly verbal, but there are were also physical analogies; routines and rituals. The first steps of this collaboration was a lot of untangling…

…Having picked up the threads of the research it seemed time to tie some knots…

 

…I was reminded of a distinction in puppetry, between puppets that are manipulated externally, with strings and sticks, and puppets that are manipulated from within…I wonder if we have a similar journey with many of our technologies, sliding unawares into mutually dependent entwinement. As VR technology becomes more widespread one of the potentials of Figuring may be to hold that knot open for as long as possible.”

Gemma Prangle was a participant in our public workshop. Completely new to VR, she was excited to explore the body through different mediums in different spaces:

 

“I felt fortunate to attend Lisa’s workshop in Knowle Media centre and was really excited by the cross-discipline practice that was happening. I remember that I came away from the workshop really curious – I hadn’t experienced VR before – and felt like I came with a new relationship to my body in space…I remember feeling thicker (Quality wise)”

 

Lisa is bringing the team for the next week of research to the Wickham Theatre at the University of Bristol in July.

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