The Interface of Virtual Reality and Performing Arts

Around 500 visitors took part at “Performersion – Days of Performing & Immersive Arts” on 5 and 6 May, engaged in workshops and listened to the talks. The two day festival concluded successfully in the days following up on re:publica. Our cooperation with the LAFT Berlin's Performing Arts Programm (PAP), sponsored by the LOTTO-Stiftung, created a platform to connect and network the free and performing arts and digital culture. The participants exchanged ideas on virtual reality and theatre, new immersive forms of communication and the new and necessary ethical questions they create.

The mornings of the 5 and 6 May allowed visitors to attend various workshops hosted by arts groups such as Gob Squad, She She Pop, LiCHTPiRATEN, VRNERDS, The Constitute, machina eX and many more. Due to huge interest, many of the workshops were rapidly booked out. In the afternoons, Performersion opened its doors for performances and lectures by artists, researchers and developers, who all created synergies between technology and the performing arts. The Berlin-based collective “The Constitute” experiments with 360 degree recording technology, its application and its potential for the arts. How does one develop a narrative on and off stage?

[caption]Participants immerse into the VR installations.[/caption]A favourite among the exhibitor space on the third and fourth floor was the “The Doghouse” installation by the Danish collective Makropol. Sitting around a table wearing VR glasses and headphones, up to five people at a time were able to dive into a whole new world. The scene takes place during a family dinner, during which each characters flaws become more and more apparent. Each set of VR glasses puts users into an actor's role. Thus, sounds and perspectives become new experiences and the overall setting reminds of the “Dogma 95” film movement.

The Performersion's stage programme was opened with a keynote address by Constanze Kurz (CCC, netzpolitik.org) on 5 May. The activist reflected on the ethics of immersive media and called for six guidelines for their use. The second day (6 May) was opened by Tim Renner, Berlin's state secretary for cultural affairs. He spent time to try out the VR installations by himself. New synergies through technology and performing arts are an exciting addition to the culture sector and help to make storytelling sustainable, according to Renner.

[caption]RE: WONDERLAND or FOLLOW THE WHITE RABBIT[/caption]Together with developer Markus Schubert (TOTO) and the OMNIDOME projection software, the artist group Prinzip Gonzo closed out both evening with a performance game specially developed for the Performersion. The pieces, RE:WONDERLAND and FOLLOW THE WHITE RABBIT, used six projectors using projection mapping to transform the Kühlhaus into a digital playground. In a virtual world, inspired by “Alice in Wonderland”, participants experienced a game of life and solved riddles. Riddles were posed by scanning QR codes and solving them moved players on to the next square in the game.

Together with PAP we are very happy about the popularity of the new event. According to participants, the new two-day festival struck a positive note with visitors.

Photo credit: re:publica/Jan Michalko (CC BY 2.0)