Go Figure: Reconciling Affect, Participation and Narrative in the Creation of Immersive Experiences


Session Title:

  • Immersive Environments

Presentation Title:

  • Go Figure: Reconciling Affect, Participation and Narrative in the Creation of Immersive Experiences




  • Sectors of the contemporary media arts and performance communities are increasingly concerned with creating affective, participatory experiences for audiences. My practice-led research focus is on praxis with a dominant imperative towards the visceral and immersive, yet narrative is almost inevitably a guest. Such art practices are framed by theories of affective affordance, experience design and participatory design; they are mirrored by trends in entertainment industries such as theme parks and casinos. When William James argued that we run from a bear then we feel afraid, rather than we know we feel afraid, and then we run, he proposed the sequence of feeling/emotion (‘What is an emotion?’, 1884). When Deleuze and Guattari philosophised that our embodied consciousness is an integral part of a porous, boundary-shifting rhizome, they succinctly evoked contemporary communications and neuro-biological models (‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’, 1987). When Brian Massumi contextualised experiments in neuro-psychology within artistic and philosophic discourses, signification as the dominant driver of consciousness was laid to rest (‘Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation’, 2002).


    These key moments reflect movements away from the domination of western culture by signification, content and moderately shifting meaning. Today artists and performance makers are creating opportunities for audiences to engage with spaces and embodiment, processes and systems – in short affective, porous experiences that touch us pre-cognitively before signification is brought into play. The event-space is often mobile, and it aims to be a constituent and affective space for creating new relations. As Andrew Murphie  explains it, agency can now be understood as a process of “participation and becoming” (‘Inflexions’, vol 1, 2008) rather than a simple facility, a calling and an inclination to act. Specifically, I am exploring what forms of affect, experience and participation might facilitate and precipitate an “abstract [yet] experiential knowing of material” (Margie Medlin and Garth Paine, SEAM Conference, 2010). Looking at the implications for practitioners and audiences, I ask what creative strategies are needed to reconcile a purely affective experience for the audience, with participation, narrative and cognition.

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