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Materialization of Experimentation. Immersive Panoramic Theater “The Awake” Opens

2019/10/22

With the technologies of panoramic imaging and virtual reality (VR) becoming more ubiquitous, the mobile way of seeing through full viewing angle is challenging the conventional logic of theatrical narratology, with new contemporary perceptual experiences offered. The Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab (C-LAB) is once again integrating contemporary art with media technology, commissioning InTW Studio to create a dance production and to collaborate with Funique VR Studio and director Chang Hao-Jan in creating a VR video. The immersive theater and VR video, The Awake, will be launched on September 20th to 22nd, 2019 on the second floor of C-LAB’s Art Space II, with the exhibition installation opened for public viewing from September 17th to 19th.

Director of C-LAB Lai Hsiang-Ling expresses that C-LAB functions as a base that supports art innovation and crossover collaborations. It encourages new media technology creative endeavors that are experimental, interdisciplinary, and also those with online-to-offline integration. Moreover, through different mechanisms of resource converging, platform matching, and incubation, collaborations are persistently conducted with various organizations and groups, with diverse experimental audio-visual presentations produced. The interdisciplinary immersive dance theater, The Awake, is conceptually initiated by C-LAB and co-created via crossover mediation with various technological studios. Presented is a collective interim presentation that marks the beginning for a journey towards an innovative and wholistic cultural ecosystem that embraces various disciplines and fields.

The Awake is InTW Studio’s interim result from its participation in C-LAB’s collaboration last year with the Digital Art Foundation. Departing from talent fostering and technology learning, the project has flourished into a co-production, and it is an example of C-LAB’s advocacy for supporting cultural experimentation and allowing it to be materialized from zero to one. The Awake is inspired by the fairytale, Sleeping Beauty, and transitions into focusing on the motor neuron disease. Through studies and field research conducted through the Taiwan Motor Neuron Disease Association, the team finds inspiration from interacting with people suffering from the disease and looks deep into the psychology when someone is slowly losing control over his or her body.

InTW Studio’s artistic director Hsieh Hsiao-Wei works with six dancers from various backgrounds, as the dancers collectively choregraph the dance through an organic approach, allowing for a diverse range of qualities to be presented. Virtual reality technology is integrated in the production, with video director Chang Hao-Jan and the VR technical team Funique VR Studio drawing inspiration from the film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. A surreal visual style is used to show the inner state of mind of someone suffering from paralysis. The VR video also shows the contrasting difference between a patient’s body and mind. Moreover, a contemporary theatrical dance performance that integrates elements of contemporary dance, theater, visual image, and virtual reality is created by a team comprised of experts from interdisciplinary fields of theater, dance, costume design, lighting, graphic design, and imaging.

Presented inside C-LAB’s Art Space II, an unconventional space for theatrical work, the exhibition-performance unfolds without a distinct storyline, with the space dissected into four settings. Cotton ropes are wrapped and twirled throughout the space, with the imagery of the magical mirror projected on the mirror surface of a television. Stretchy fabric creates a floor surface on the side and invites the audience to wobble and dance alongside the dancers, which shows people with motor neuron disease’s battle with their increasingly stiffening and hard to control bodies. Another space is made to resemble a living room, an everyday living space of someone with motor neuron disease. There is a bed, a clock, a dinning table, and the audience could freely move about in this space. A video installation is presented in the VR space, with full viewing angle utilized to challenge conventional theatrical narratology. This presentation is an innovative production that breaks norms and pushes people’s perceptual experiences.