Actor-Spectator in a Virtual Reality Arts Play

University dissertation from University of Gothenburg

Abstract: This doctoral project brings to the fore the specificity of the artistic experience when the Virtual Reality Cube, a medium based on immersive virtual reality technology, is used as artistic virtual space, where the stage and the auditorium blend into one and spectators and actors no longer have distinctive roles. It consists of three integrated parts: a written thesis, a VR artwork and a DVD, which illustrates the text, the production process of the VR work, and which also presents an interpretation of the research results in filmic and photographic form. Gadamer’s concepts of play and experience of art, Aristotle’s conception of drama and Ricoeur’s theory of metaphor are used as points of departure in order to coin the term virtual reality arts play or VR arts play that characterises this kind of immersive journey in between illusion and reality. Empirical and theoretical functions interweave in a chorus of voices representing the experience of all actors involved: the audience, the production team and experts from several art fields, computer-games and media. Audience surveys show that all the respondents but one, children as well as adults, thought that this type of VR artwork opens up new ways for an artist to give shape to an artistic vision and for an audience to communicate with and experience an artwork from within. What appears as the most worthwhile and unique aspect of the experience is the opportunity to experience fictive, imaginary worlds and characters that cannot be represented by other means than through an immersive virtual reality medium, i.e. within a physical space where the audience becomes physically immersed and participant “on stage”. The essence of such an experience is to be found in the notion of “play in between”, at the crossover of several art forms and computer games, for audiences which consider themselves as both actor/participants and spectators. Research results, exposed and illuminated through semiotics and hermeneutics, show that such experiences may develop in the form of intimate experiences for a little group of spectators or within new social contexts for broader audiences and with several possible applications within the fields of art and entertainment.

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