This participatory performance with interactive media was designed to encourage audiences to explore a collective altered state of consciousness. Inspired by rites of passage and initiation, the event was set in an exploratorium that created shifts in the perception of self, space-time and reality.
The journey through the experience engineers an altered state of consciousness that mirrors a kind of postmodern vision quest. Visitors partake in a sequence of happenings exploring their inner landscape. The aim is to encourage a sense of awareness and agency that will reflect into daily life.
Upon arriving visitors are presented with a lanyard of tickets to eight private experiences within a central meditative performance. Artist Thomas Aquinas Maguire designed the tarot deck that served as visitor’s tickets.
Entropy – The central meditative performance
After entering the space, visitors are asked to travel blindfolded through a short maze. At the center of the maze is a meditative performance in an otherworldly landscape. The central performance lasts 4.5 hours. Visitors are invited to stay as long as they wish, but can only visit each private experience once.
I created a projection system that allowed a large image of the moon to travel the periphery of the space, using a clock motor, mirror and a video from the NASA archives. The video was a visualization of the moons phases for the year of the performance. It took one hour for the moon to complete a revolution of the room.
On Your Mind station
A private soundscape for two individuals.
In this station people were asked to imitate the sounds of a man and woman emoting (laughing, weeping, and feeling contentment). They were told that they did not have to feel the emotions, but only imitate them. This sought to engage the Self-Perception Theory, developed by psychologist Daryl Bem, encouraging participants to induce attitudes without accessing internal cognition and mood. #4 Changes in emotional expression as well as in some instances, #3 Fear of loss of control.
The heads were designed using Autodesk 123D Design and 123D Make, free software. The 3D CAD model of the 3-faced Head was output as PDF documents and cut out of cardboard on a Epilog Fusion M2 laser cutter at ResistorNYC. I inserted acoustic foam into the spaces in the frame and covered the head with two layers of papier-mâché and gesso to help to contain sound. After testing a very rudimentary prototype (a foam cylinder) with volunteers, I decided that it would be necessary to add a duct for air to the top of the head. This was a 4” diameter air tube with a basic fan at the far end. A future iteration of this head will have further papier-mâché to cover thin areas; an additional ring of acoustic foam inside the bottom of the helmet to further prevent sound from escaping around the neckline; and a tube of acoustic foam to be wrapped around 8-12” of the air duct close to the head. I feel that it is important that this station is experienced in a room with another person whom visitors are close enough to sense, but not hear. Perhaps a future iteration would have the two heads facing each other, but separated by a panel of clear Plexiglas, so that there is a sense of safe separation, but participants are confronted visually with one another upon completing the task.
The Merkwelt station
Merkwelt is a German term meaning “way of viewing the world” or “peculiar individual consciousness.” It’s a concept that describes a creature’s capacity to view things, manipulate information and make meaning out of the universe. In this station, an audience member is positioned in a small room face-to-face with an intelligent creature forced into a cage that is too small for its body. The Merkwelt asks its visitor to discuss mundane daily activities that invoke feelings about free will, the human condition, and social ideology. The station seeks to use a number of the ten elements of an altered state to further the state of visitor’s own consciousness: #3 Fear of loss of control, #7 Changes in meaning or significance and #8: The ineffable.
“A few people were aggressive. Kind of questioning what I was, and one guy even denied giving me water. I used the water bit when I wanted to introduce some fun, but that guy was like a pretentious asshole about everything. He was truly the only one. Conversations were largely about uncertainty, curiosity, fulfillment and peoples’ relationships to others. Often I gave my own feelings through the Merkvelt’s circumstances- like ‘I’m not sure what my beliefs are…’, ‘How can you say what you believe?’, ‘Is it still true once its been stated?’, ‘How can you outrun that phenomenon and be honest all the time.’ The greatest satisfaction came from facilitating peoples genuine consideration of their own feelings and current place in life. The experience made me feel people are mostly good. I don’t have many experiences like that exactly. “ – Eric Magnus, performer, Merkwelt
The PASSAGE station
The passage is a miniature landscape that visitors are invited to walk through. There is no set path or designated place to set one’s feet. In fact, it includes obstacles, which can be trampled and destroyed, if the visitor is not careful.It is meant to provide a shift in body image – of being giant. It is meant to incite the feelings: #5 Changes in body image, #3 Fear of loss of control.
Jason Schuler is an interdisciplinary artist and Artistic Director of the award-winning Operating Theater Company.
Patrícia Faolli is an interdisciplinary artist originally from São Paolo, Brazil and part of the international performance art group Ajuntamento MeninasJoão.
Magali Wilensky is visual artist and sound therapist originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is a co-owner of the Ome-chaye, art and wellness center in Miami Florida.
The artists are M.F.A. candidates in the Performance and Interactive Media Arts (PIMA) program at Brooklyn College: a cutting-edge graduate program in collaborative, experimental, multidisciplinary performing arts production. It brings together experienced professional artists from a wide range of backgrounds to collaboratively create performance that draws upon and hybridizes theater, performance art, dance, music, puppetry and new forms. Artists in the program share an interest in digital media and technology.