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Here some of the reactions of the participants from CSSD-London:

Reflections on experience by Troy Hourie, MA Scenography Candidate, CSSD

Firstly, I would like to congratulate the Toneel Academie for its efforts in hosting both Crew and our group of students from Central School of Speech and Drama. In bringing together undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral students into one space with a professional company, the academy fostered a great intersection of ideas and practice that was extremely enriching process. I have rarely seen this kind of interaction within a single school, let alone two schools from different countries. I believe this kind of experience is forward thinking in embracing that technology is now providing us with a potential global way of producing work.
The students from the Toneel acadamie showed create passion, insight and excitement to be interacting with so many collabora- tors in producing their work. They shared and received critical ideas in a generous and sensitive manner.
Their proposal of using the Crew technology to explore the idea of terror was an intriguing one. The invitation to have an open dialog about creating a sensory experience that each individual has such variant viewpoints allowed for a dynamic exchange. Over the course of the three days, the Maastricht students received a lot of input and did so openly and made us feel positive about contributing to a project that was in the end not ours to develop. Their eagerness made us want to contribute and I do hope that they found the kind of discourse they shared in to be a valuable experience.
The collaborative nature of the whole workshop was invaluable to my education. I thoroughly enjoyed being exposed to the methods and thinking behind the work of Crew. Technology can be intimidating but the way they presented their work to us made it easy for us to become engaged. The opportunity to be immersed into several of their experiences was certainly a highlight in the whole process and I am grateful to have been able to participate in this. Within my own research I have been looking at sensory experiences in relation to video and projection and these immersions were insightful. The technology made me relate to my body in a way I have not experienced before. I had to trust the technology and the creators and learn how to relate to the environment without control over my own vision. This is a relationship I wish to continue to investigate.
Lastly, I wish to thank the Academy for the hospitality. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the students, Crew and the city of Maastricht. It is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been and I have no doubt I will be back. I would love to live there!!!
Feel free to add me to any newsletters or the like for your program.
Troy Hourie Scenographer

Reflections on being part of the CREW Project, ‘C.A.P.E. Horror’, at Toneelacademie, 28th February – 2nd March, 2012 by Jo Scott

Three days collaborating with CREW and the performance students at the Toneelacademie represented a unique opportunity for me, as an intermedial practitioner and researcher, to experience first-hand the working methods, creative processes and the operation of the technology associated with this company. My experience working with CREW was threaded through with questions of actuality and virtuality, and how the two could be actively combined. As such, being actually immersed in the virtuality of ‘Cape Brussels’ at the very start of our time at Toneelacademie, represented a strong opening provocation.
Whatever my preconceptions had been about CREW’s work and the experience of using their technology in practice, they were all secondary to the actual experience of being immersed. Being placed virtually in an actual world (Brussels), which is in turn presented in the actual space your body inhabits, through technology as a virtual, immersive environment is, as it sounds, an initially disorienting experience. It is also true that though such an experience can be described, it is only within immersion that it can be, to some extent, understood.
One of the questions which was raised within our discussions was whether CREW actually want to fully immerse their experiencers within the virtual worlds created through the technology or whether there is something more engaging about marrying the virtual with the actual, facilitated by actual touch and movement which is mirrored in the virtual space. In immersion, I would argue from my own experience, that you rarely lose sense of yourself in the actual world for more than a few seconds and therefore what is experienced is not complete immersion in the virtual...actually it’s something more exciting than that. It is a concurrent experience of being allowed to exist in two places at one time, to inhabit those spaces with an actual and virtual body and to experience how one space can both inform and at times dislocate the other.
Total immersion within the medium created - implying immediacy and loss of the sense of mediality - seems to me to represent a more passive state. This is certainly not what I experienced in immersion. What I did feel was a privileged positioning of myself whereby I could actively inhabit an environment, in this case the streets of Brussels, and people could look at me in this world and see me, while not seeing me – I therefore took on something of a ghostlike quality. Equally, there was an awareness of others in the actual world, looking at my movements and my journey from the outside. The play between inner and outer, the physical presence in the actual world and the ghost of me in the virtual world, combined to create a frisson, which I greatly enjoyed.
I was more conscious of my actual body in immersion than I expected to be, but this did not detract for me from the experience of being also in the virtual world. I enjoyed the tension between the two and the efforts made to match them up through simultaneity of touch and image. Similarly to others in the group, the experience of seeing a hand in the virtual world, while my actual hand was mirroring its movements, did not make me believe that the virtual hand was my own. In addition to this, the simultaneity of touch in the virtual and actual worlds did not make me think that I was actually in Brussels. However, these moments of simultaneity within the immersion were the ones that I enjoyed the most, probably because this facility of actual touch, in concurrence with virtual action, is for me the defining feature of the medium; what separates it from the filmic. The implication of your body in both environments; the awareness of both environments and being simultaneously within and without, is the heart of the experience for me.
Our discussions of how this medium could be developed in relation to a horror theme revealed further theories and thoughts as to medium-specificity, with the immersant’s inability to escape from the immersion being raised as making the medium distinctive. The individuality of the experience for the immersant is another factor and is clearly an area of development for CREW, who are working on creating experiences for greater numbers of people. However, even in multi-immersions, the immersant always has a unique and singular experience, from the interaction, through touch and movement, with their personal assistant, to the choices they make in terms of what to look at and when within the virtual world. With regard to ‘Cape Horror’, thinking through and pitching our own prospective horror immersions to the other members of the group made it clear that detailed thought is needed in terms of the structuring the individual’s experience in immersion, bearing in mind three concurrent tracks; the virtual images, actual world and the soundtrack which accompanies the immersion.
The openness of all the members of CREW and the Toneelacademie students allowed us full access their creative world; from experiencing immersion ourselves, to being party to their discussions and finally to creating our own immersive experience, using the webcam facility. The marrying of our own experience within immersion with the creative and conceptual discussions and finally, using the technology to construct an immersion ourselves, represented a valuable snapshot of the work done by CREW and the trajectory of their current project. It is thanks to the company members and the students of the Toneelacademie, that I left Maastricht with decidedly more insight into CREW’s work, while simultaneously being prompted to ask further and more developed questions in relation to this very particular form of intermediality.
Jo Scott

CREW is a company that operates on the border between art and science, between performance art and new technology. Artist Eric Joris develops his live-art projects in close collaboration with a collective of artists and scientists. Electronic and digital media form the basis of a unique artistic way of thinking and the engine for aesthetic experiences and reflection. This results in hybrid performances that question and redefine commonly accepted performative parameters.