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The encounter with the real: What can Complicite’s Theatre performance 'The Encounter' teach us about the future of VR narratives?

Salihbegovic, Fahrudin

The encounter with the real: What can Complicite’s Theatre performance 'The Encounter' teach us about the future of VR narratives? Thumbnail


Authors

Fahrudin Salihbegovic



Abstract

The most recent emergence of relatively inexpensive VR technologies has received an enthusiastic attention from the entertainment industry, visual and multimedia artists, and academia. The world of computer gaming is thriving with the new VR platforms and the number of VR games is multiplying exponentially. Similarly, quite a few research projects have been funded in order to explore the potential of the immersive technologies in disciplines as wide and different as health care, nuclear decommissioning and nonfiction immersive documentaries. Similar to the advent of its various digital predecessors at the end of the last century, the encounter with this highly interactive and immersive technology has stirred up the discussion about the nature of the medium and its relation to its predecessors. A particular interest seems to be placed in the narrative possibilities of the medium. Parallel to this shared enthusiasm, however, one can also easily sense equally shared disappointment with the current state of affairs when it comes to the artistic climaxes delivered in the VR medium. The voices from both the entertainment industry and creative academia are clearly dissatisfied with the rather rudimentary narratives presented in the most of VR games, as well as more artistically ambitious immersive experiences. The medium which claims the highest technological level of immersion still struggles to keep its audience truly immersed in its fictional realities. In this article I argue that the answer to this challenge might come outside of the world of immersive interactive gaming, and that the key for understanding the nature of immersion might come from the realm of theatre. My study of Complicite’s performance The Encounter demonstrates that this work manages to achieve the level of immersion unconceivable for any existing VR experience. The key elements for this success are the profoundly relevant subject matter (the narrative based on Petru Popescu’s Amazon Beaming), ingenious use of binaural immersive sound, and extraordinary story-telling performance delivered by Simon McBurney. In other words, it is the combination of the performance’s intertextuality, the multimediality of its means of expression and the intense presence of its narrator/protagonist that accounts for extraordinarily immersive viewers’ experience. If the medium of VR is ever to achieve a comparable level of narrative and formal complexity, it needs to break away from the vacuum of the games-logic based interactivity and shift towards a more intertextual, multimedial and narratorial aesthetic.

Citation

Salihbegovic, F. (2020). The encounter with the real: What can Complicite’s Theatre performance 'The Encounter' teach us about the future of VR narratives?. Body, Space & Technology, 19(1), 125-152. https://doi.org/10.16995/bst.336

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 30, 2019
Online Publication Date Feb 19, 2020
Publication Date Feb 19, 2020
Deposit Date Feb 21, 2020
Publicly Available Date Feb 21, 2020
Journal Body, Space & Technology
Electronic ISSN 1470-9120
Publisher Open Library of Humanities
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 1
Pages 125-152
DOI https://doi.org/10.16995/bst.336
Public URL https://uwe-repository.worktribe.com/output/5465018

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