Living Room was the precursor work-in-progress to (No) Living Room which is premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2010.
Studies have shown that since 1955 contentment amongst the US population has plunged despite a tripling of average affluence. With the global financial system in meltdown is our unquestioning acceptance of the paradigm of continual economic growth sustainable or even desirable? What Living Room is left for the human spirit?
Using alKamie’s Virtual Reality Theatre, Living Room plunges the audience into visceral economic gloom, despair and the unbridled consumerism of modern existence, to surface on the other side of calamity in the midst of alternative possibilities and awaiting opportunity.
The first scene finds a woman sitting in a domestic living room. The scene moves around her, giving the audience an omnipresent sense of the world that this character inhabits. As she sits, a tirade of despairing news breaks over her as reporter upon reporter speaks of recession and economic woe. Numbly, she falls from her chair and dives through a picture frame to float in a dark dimensional labyrinthine world, somewhere in the between of things. The scene floats languidly around her, kinaesthetically enjoining the audience into her womb-like experience. As Living Room progresses the woman finds herself emptied into a series of other dream-like realities. Her ‘reality’ is unstable, as is the experience of the audience.
In this surreal presentation, the base subject of economic gloom, fear, greed and despair is juxtaposed with metaphors of ascension and evolution, to weave surprising poetic turns of abstract narrative. For example, whilst the woman seems to ascend a set of stairs, they revolve to become a cage; a lattice of white stripes crosses the whole stage to entrap her. The metaphors of stairs, ascension, cage and entrapment become overlaid to create a potent artistic statement.
Living Room combines live performance, surreal projected virtual environments and cinematic story telling techniques, such as fast visual editing and control of the audience’s viewpoint. This new combination creates an emergent medium that is a fluid and totally organic artistic creation expressed in real-time.
The technology used by alKamie is created by the company itself and is an active participant in the creative process, defining the performance possibilities and in turn, itself being defined by the creative process. Hence each re-working of Living Room also involves re-development and further improvement of the technology. This co-evolution of art and technology has lead to a highly integrated, experimental and innovative artistic practice.
Despite the powerful impact of alKamie’s Virtual Reality Theatre the set-up remains elementary requiring a single projector, white stage space and simple side lighting. The computer hardware is rigged in ½ hour. The Cyberdancer and computer require little space but should be sited front of house with an unimpeded central view of the stage.