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Sunday March 17 | 10:45 - 12:15
University Theatre Building | 301
In this panel, we will explore our interdisciplinary practice-based research project “Playing with Virtual Realities” (performed at Dock 11, Berlin, in 2018 in association with Performance Philosophy) as an exemplary site that raises both questions of institution and intoxication. The project brought together dancers, a philosopher/choreographer, theatre scholars/dramaturges, gamers, and media experience designers to explore how dancing and embodied techniques can interact with virtual reality technology. The project’s name implies our intentions for exchange: VR technology is a medium of our research, however the play is with the diversity of bodies of knowledge and with the virtual surplus each practice generates.

Individual contributions:

Einav Katan-Schmid: Following from the Aristotelian definitions, western culture traditionally distinguishes between artistic practices as a technical know-how to scientific knowledge as a theoretical – epistemological – knowthat (Aristotle, NE, c. 350 BC). The traditional outlook on experimentations follows the clear distinction between ‘episteme’ and ‘techne’ as well; scientific research experiments are traditionally empiric and aim to observe the natural world through measuring causalities (Hans Radder, 2003, p. 2), while, in contrast, experimental art is reputed to be ‘experiential’, and therefore not reflective. In “PwVR” we experiment in between these traditions and poles. The project deals with the experiential media of VR technology and of dancing, and situates these as a source for academic explorations which are theoretically driven. As a practice-based-research project, “PwVR” offers another outlook on the symbiosis between theory and practice in both artistic media and in academic research. In my presentation, I will focus the ways we systemized the research experiment in “PwVR” as an exchange between the bodies of knowledge and the practices of the different scholars/practitioners. Additionally, institutionally “PwVR” might not be considered as an act of intoxication since it has
both the context of the Interdisciplinary Laboratory (Humboldt University of Berlin), in which experiments for finding new interdisciplinary methodologies are encouraged, and it stands in line with current interdisciplinary and intermedial research fashions. Yet, I indicate the revolutionary stance of “PwVR” in avoiding hierarchical attitude towards types of knowing.

Einav Katan-Schmid, PhD, is a core convener for the international network Performance Philosophy, a co-founder of Mo.Ré, a collective for movement research, and the author of Embodied Philosophy in Dance; Gaga and Ohad Naharin's Movement Research (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). Her work is in the intersection of dance practice with embodied philosophy of perception, aesthetics, and hermeneutics. Her research project “Playing with Virtual Realities” at the Excellence Cluster An Interdisciplinary Laboratory at Humboldt University of Berlin, deals with and stages the philosophical, as well as the artistic, implications of interacting bodily techniques within VR technology.

Christian Stein: Never before computer interaction has integrated as much body movement as with today´s virtual reality (VR) technology. For decades, the usual way of human-computer interaction has been through mouse and keyboard. With VR, the direction where the head turns, the movement of hands and arms (and consequently, the whole body), became the way to relate with it. With this new focus on the body and how it feels to be in a virtual world, immersion has reached a new level. For dancers, intensive perception, control and usage of the body have always been crucial parts of their profession. When dancers start to explore virtual reality, imagination and perception as much as technology and technique are coming together. The interplay between the world of game and the world of dance is not only showing their differences, but also their similarities. The playful dimension of dance and the artistic dimension of game are becoming visible. “PwVR” has explored these aspects and found new ways of interacting between the physical and the virtual world. For the first time, the dancers could see their movements delineated in space while dancing, somehow dancing with their own past. They found ways to communicate through lines they drew and interacted with games in a unique way. For the research on Virtual Reality it is very interesting to observe dancers use the technology in their own way. It opens new dimensions of interaction and might allow a glimpse into the future of a generation of virtual natives to come.

Dr. phil. Christian Stein studied literary studies, linguistics and computer science. He did his doctorate in modern literature and at the same time, worked on topics as terminology’s management and models of foreign language, bridging the areas linguistics, informatics and engineering. Since 2012 he is pursuing his academic interests and researching with the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin at the Interdisciplinary Laboratory Image Knowledge Gestaltung as the leader of the research area „Knowledges of Architecture“. There he also co-founded the gamelab.berlin. Key subjects in his work are game research, semantic networks, modeling interdisciplinary, spatial theory and an epistemology of interdisciplinary.

Nitsan Margaliot: PwVR was the first time I dived into the VR world, was involved with academic interdisciplinary research project, and became familiar with theoretical/philosophical terms such as “immersive”, “virtuality”, “perceptual affordance”, and so forth. During the process I was confronted with new challenges and working methods, which the scholars and the technology brought into this project and into my practice. Through my embodied knowledge I got to interact and to learn from within how to navigate and negotiate new information with my already existing techniques. In my part of the presentation I will reflect the challenges of negotiating the sensing body with the new artificial-technological environment into comprehensive movement. I will unfold the emotions, sensations, and thought processes that the new experiences generated in me. I will deal with the interactions I had with the VR technology and the scholars. Finally, I will investigate how an exchange between practical experiences and reflective interviews led me to both unfold my perspective and to integrate the points of view of the other scholars in the room into my work and thinking processes. As I will reflect and argue, in this research process I’ve learned how to navigate my decision-making and environmental awareness, not solely according to the VR technology or to my dance - but as a new method of integrating and mixing both realities into one immersive experience.

Nitsan Margaliot is a contemporary dancer, choreographer and teacher working mainly in Germany, France, and Israel. He collaborates with rewarded artists as well as teaches improvisation in various institutions around the world. Among other professional experiences, he danced with Batsheva Ensemble Dance Company and Vertigo Dance Company. He is a co-founder of Mo.Ré, a collective for movement research (Berlin). Currently, he is doing his MFA in Dance at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, USA. His research deals with the connection between choreography, performance and new media. He is supported by The University of the Arts President's Fund for Excellence.

Tom Lilge: In 1967, media and capitalism criticism in Debord's "Society of the Spectacle" condense into radical statements such as "The spectacle in general is a concrete reversal of life, the independent movement of the non-living". Today, with the complete liberation of the field of vision through the technique of head-mounted displays and the resulting intensive immersion into virtual realities, a new dimension of the spectacle may have been reached. From this perspective, PwVR can be considered a pleasurable exploration of this new technology and its associated utopian and dystopian potentials. The hand guides the controller effortlessly and draws light rays into the virtual space. In PwVR these light rays become imperative signs, which the body of the dancer can only follow with great effort. The VR glasses are soaked in sweat - the imagery and the world of the body meet in the inward-shining mask and criticize each other. If the spectacle is the "independent movement of the lifeless," then dance, and in particular the cultural technique of play, could be adequate instruments of research and criticism. This is also suggested by Agamben when he describes play as a profanation instrument par excellence. The "inappropriate use" (Agamben) means the playful handling of media which make these techniques visible, accessible to criticism and are therefore a condition for any influence and change. In this sense, PwVR is an experiment that, thanks to its hybrid and playful form, appears as a promising new research perspective.

Tom Lilge studied philosophy and theatre science. He heads the research and development platform gamelab.berlin, which he co-founded, at the Humboldt University in Berlin. The digital and analogue potentials of the cultural technique of games and playful experiences are tested here in various applications and with various cooperation partners (Humboldt Forum, Charité Berlin). At Humboldt Innovation GmbH, he also leads a research project on the "Museum of the Future", which investigates the digital possibilities of the playful teaching of object-based knowledge. His research interests focus on the epistemological dimensions of games and play between scientific research and practical application and the aesthetic, ethical and motivational aspects of the digital transformation.

Ramona Mosse: The hybridity of PwVR extends beyond the interaction of the dancers with VR technology and the virtual and actual worlds rendered through such interaction; it extends to the audience watching, reflecting on, and in turn becoming immersed into the performance. In my role as a dramaturg for PwVR, I focused particularly on the ambiguous and multiple nature of immersion as a dynamic process that oscillated between VR user, dancer, and audience. Oliver Grau speaks of immersion as “a passage from one mental state to another” (Virtual Art, 2003: 13), and it is precisely the potential and challenge of the passage between different states of consciousness and reality that is in need of further exploration here. My focus in our presentation and discussion will be twofold: I will first trace the history of virtuality and immersion in relation to discourses of intoxication, which also tend to be discourses of the ethics of a given medium. Drawing on our experimentation in PwVR, I will identify the range of immersions we encountered in our practice-as-research project, considering the full range of perceptions from visual to aural and haptic. Moreover, I will question the existing opposition
between criticality on the one hand and immersiveness on the other, as mutually exclusive experiences of either affective involvement or judgment and argue for the necessity of a dialogue between the two in generating knowledge in its fullest complexity, that is both as both embodied and conceptual. VR technology turns into a provocative site upon which to explore these topics.

Dr. Ramona Mosse is a Lecturer in Theatre Studies at the Goethe Universität Frankfurt/Main and an Associate Fellow at the International Research Center for Interweaving Performance Cultures, Freie Universität Berlin. She is the co-editor of Erika Fischer-Lichte’s Routledge Introduction to Theater and Performance Studies (Routledge 2014) and has published on philosophy and genre, metatheatre and performativity, theories of tragedy, and the politics of contemporary drama and performance. Ramona’s current research focuses on strategies of immersion in theatrical performance with a particular focus on questions of aurality and sound studies. She holds a PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. Ramona also works as a dramaturg and translator.
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