For an upcoming theatre and performance project called “The journey to Abadyl” I have worked to put forward models for engaging participants in an interactive mixed reality space. “The journey to Abadyl ” should be seen as a synergy of the expressions of the theatre, the exhibition, the role-play and the amusement park, using dynamic new media, a non-linear dramaturgy and theories from computer games, working with notions as “story world” rather than “script” and “gameplay” rather than “drama”.
The task is to establish a contract of fiction with the audience, based on a variety of representations, illusions, and meta-levels, and to create an environment, which is believable. It will be an event, which takes place over a day, engaging its public in a structured game, using the new media in all their possibilities of creating illusions and presenting the results of intricate algorithms in a few seconds, and so able to engage the public in an interaction, which inside the structured frame will define the outcome of the game. It takes place in a larger venue for an audience of 100-200 persons, adults, youths, and children above 10, together with their parents. Here the audience will explore “The Anatomy of Choice” – strategies and scenarios that are structured as a matrix in which the participating audience are exposed to distinct choices that include both moral, ethical, and physical dilemmas and challenges. A kind of computer game in a spatial format. This mixed reality space contains digital film footage, sound, physical objects, augmented reality, computer games graphics, and hidden messages that are all part of a story waiting to be discovered. Depending on how the guide and participants choose to explore the space and answer the challenges, the story will evolve differently at every performance.
The question for me this time was how to design a process to populate a virtual world with people, objects, and architecture using our everyday environment as part of the input. I wanted to engage the audience early in the process to participate with materials and recordings a week ahead before they actually come to the theatre. Where the audience each night through their input modified the virtual city space created by the production team. We also wanted to have the production team (artist, performers, designers and script writers) to also provide input and handle audience participation to constantly evolve the city of Traora each performance.
Virtual as well as real spaces are more than monuments and buildings, more than streets and landmarks. In a series of “walks” through The City of Abadyl I tried to explore a lot of questions about how the city was constructed, between the Map and the territory, what kind ideas and configurations that made each part look the way it did – their was a need for the me and later on the co-creators to have some more philosophical points of departure.
So I wrote the Seven voices of the constructors of Abadyl. In this work I paired some of the writers that inspired me over the years into shaping the framework of the city. The idea was to take the authors in small groups for a walk in Abadyl and listen to what they had to say and the one´s who finally made it was: Alexander/Venturi, de Certeau/Calvino ,Wallenstein/de Botton, Taylor/Mankiewicz, Damasio/Cambell, Baudrillard/Koolhaas, Auster/Manovich, Davis/Hoffmeyer, and Sorkin/Söderberg. Here is an example from one of the walks through Abadyl:
Already George Crumb recognized the complexity of the living environments, what is in the background, and how fast it changes. In his series of photos of ordinary American street corners that later found its way into his covers for Weirdo magazine he in an interview stated.
“People don’t draw it, all this crap, people don’t focus attention on it because it’s ugly, it’s bleak, it’s depressing,” he says, “The stuff is not created to be visually pleasing and you can’t remember exactly what it looks like. But, this is the world we live in; I wanted my work to reflect that, the background reality of urban life”
Early conceptual models of the workflow here are called The flaneur kit
“Walking ideally, is the state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts.” Rebecca Solnit Wanderlust
Since the City part of Traora already exist as a digital 3d model and through that had a map describing it territory we used that map as a starting point for The mapping. The 3d models for this was made using procedural modelling techniques and manual editing creating Traora in 2003.
From that map of the built environment, we extracted a series of walks as instructions and invited different co-creators to explore these algorithmic walks in their everyday surrounding in order to be surprised by rediscovery, using a digital camera to capture and later communicate their findings.
As a Designer one should always be aware that one never designs the actual co-creation experience, only the framework wherein that experience can take place. and when designing such (game)play, participatory design methods are crucial to creating an enjoyable ludic activity. The audience and the production team disseminate their findings into the platform and perhaps extract something which can inform their own living environments.
This transference from the physical environment to the virtual is different from that of the Situationist movement’s use of psycho-geographical maps, while still having a resemblance. “The point was to encounter the unknown as a facet of the known, astonishment on the terrain of boredom, innocence in the face of experience. So you can walk up the street without thinking, letting your mind drift, letting your legs, with their internal memory, carry you up and down the streets”
Through the wanderlost Kits we have designed The journey to Abadyl experience with respect to stage a conflict that has a mind triggering influence on the audience with a set of problems and possibilities that they bring into their everyday environment before they visit the theater, that can be captured and recorded and later assimilated into Traora the night they visit the theatre.
Examples and different prototypes of statements & Questions for the co-creators
The process is thus designed to take off from within the space of the known known, whereupon we apply methods inspired by the phenomena of ambiguity and surprise . We believe this to be the most appropriate starting point for the indirection, distraction, disruption, and displacement that can strengthen attention. Whereupon we apply methods inspired from the above-mentioned domain, together with methodology from scenario planning , design and innovation games, as well as methods of my own devising (e.g. Fieldasy, Johansson Linde, 2004).
With the proposed process and the Traora Flanuer Kit I aim to to brings fact and fiction together, creating a discreet dynamic tension or displacement between persons, things, times, places, and events that are not usually associated into new and surprising conjunctions. Through using statements and questions we are able to provide detailed and specific data, which the co-creator can use as background material for their action. Hopefully the co-creators themselves also import qualities into the world, which do not and cannot stem from the kit itself. Developing virtual city creation into new directions.
Images that were captured during the walk
Original models from Traora