The Experience Of Immersion

Posted 13 June 2019

The Experience Of Immersion

This week’s discovery delves into immersive works within the creative industry.

Immersive works are making a splash across Australia and the world.  ‘Immersion’ can refer to a wide range of works, from multi-sensory environments you can inhabit to experiences involving a high level of audience interaction.

Sourced: ArtsHub Website, Fair Share Fare’s Apitherapy Quarantine as part of Refuge 2018: Pandemic at Arts House. Image: Bryony Jackson.

Recent offerings around Australia include Whoosh!, a participatory space journey from Perth’s Sensorium Theatre that’s now touring nationally, and The Believers Are But Brothers at Melbourne’s Arts House and Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres, which combines storytelling with technology to bring audience members into the world of online extremism.

While the term can mean many different things, for Arts House artistic director Emily Sexton, immersive work is primarily defined by SPATIAL DESIGN, THE CREATIVE INTENTION AND PROCESS, AND THE AUDIENCE-PERFORMER RELATIONSHIP.

‘The space probably doesn’t look like a traditional proscenium arch set-up where there’s an audience in a seating bank and a performer onstage,’ she says. While traditional theatre can also pull you deeply into a world, Sexton says, what we call immersive work often comes from a more devised practice, drawing from live art or performance art traditions rather than text, and gives the audience more agency.

‘I think the rise of this kind of practice has much to do with the political changes that have happened worldwide, the technological changes, and the way that society has felt very disparate at the same time as becoming very connected online,’ Sexton tells Arts Hub. ‘Artists have been very dedicated to exploring what it means to have a body, and what it means to speak and to speak with breath over the last couple of decades.’

Though artists have been playing with these practices for decades, immersive formats have become increasingly popular in the last couple of years, particularly with high-profile productions like Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More attracting hype from New York to Shanghai.

Global ticket sales to immersive theatre performances grew 600 per cent in the period 2016 to 2018 on ticket platform TodayTix, which operates in Australia, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, while the number of immersive offerings on the platform increased eight-fold in the same period. TodayTix co-founder and CEO Brian Fenty says some of the best performing productions are smaller, niche and experimental.

Sourced: ArtsHub Website, Performer Joel Bray with an audience participant in his participatory dance theatre piece, Daddy, at Arts House in 2019. Image: Bryony Jackson.

It’s vital, however, for immersive works to deliver on the depth and interaction that they promise.

The most successful works are ones in which the performers know the world well enough that they can play with it: Sexton points to how Joel Bray’s work adapts and evolves in response to his audience.

For more information read the FULL ARTICLE HERE AT ARTS HUB

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