Whilst many VR frameworks are solitary, sedentary experiences, this project explores a cutting-edge VR framework which enables multi-person, interactive experiences (see https://arxiv.org/abs/1801.02884). Figuring aims to explore the artistic and performative potential of this unique framework.

Figuring is an exploration into 'layered realities' - the perception and experience of more than one 'reality'. It will focus on investigating the perceptual gap between what is seen and what is felt within the both the non-virtual and the virtual environment. By exploring how bodies orient and navigate across both physical and virtual spaces, we will understand how conventions of movement, behaviour, and interaction operate in these layered realities. 

A key research area concerns the aesthetics of the virtual body, which is simultaneously human and nonhuman. They aim to understand how bodily representation in a multi-person VR framework impacts group behaviours and collective interactions. They are exploring a range of ideas: What happens when bodies are absent? What happens when bodies are present? How does our experience of our own body and that of others change as we experience literal forms versus more abstract, fluid, and energetic representations? How do these representations impact our experience of embodiment and how do they mediate between what is seen and what is felt?

Figuring is comprised of a diverse team of collaborators, including dancer Lisa May Thomas and creative technologist Mark Wonnacott, artist Becca Rose, and data-driven sound designer Alex Jones. 

Alongside Becca Rose, Lisa is exploring the play of String Figures to test structures as collective communicational devices and from which to devise convergences (not a literal mapping or mimicking) between real and virtual environments. String Figures have evolved as a generational mechanism for telling stories through mediated touch, as a tacit form of non-verbal communication that operates to pass down information, values, etc.

More generally, this research will take into consideration issues of proprioception, ways of knowing the body, visual dominance, felt dominance, dance practices, blindfold practices, transfer of body ownership, a scale of embodiment, and the notion that movement (not visual versimilitude) is key to embodied agency.

Lisa will be hosting a series of workshops and discussions with different groups to test out the ideas that emerge through her creative practice, and the project will culminate in a sharing of performative and participatory outcomes as a response to the question of; How might bodies participate and interact across the VR and non-VR boundaries, and between audience and performers? This will take place at the Wickham Theatre, University of Bristol, on Friday September 22nd 2018.

If you are interested in talking to Lisa about this project, please email lisamay.thomas@mac.com