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dusk jacket Phd dissertation
Villa dei Misteri, ca. 60 BCE
Richard Schechner & The Performance Group, Dionysus in 69, 1968 © Photographs by Max Waldman, 1969
Giulio Romano, Sala dei Giganti, ca. 1530
Robert Mitchell, Robert Barker's panorama, Leicester Square Londen, ca. 1793
Kurt d'Haeseleer, Scripted Emotions, 2006 © Kristof Persoonse
Robertson, fantasmagorie, Pavillon de l'Echiquier, 1798, Paris
Eric Joris & CREW, Terra Nova, 2011 © Eric Joris
INSIDE THE IMAGE. Immersion, Theatricality and Narrative in Performance and Media Art (completed)

Research project

Fellow: Wynants Nele

Supervisor: Vanhoutte Kurt

Duration: 01/10/2008 - 20/10/2012


Research abstract 


This project investigates the artistic strategies in immersive performance and installation art. The central aim is to survey in what particular ways spectators are drawn into both the narrative and visual environment of the work and how this amounts to a heightened sense of being present in the fictional world created by the performance. By the same token this study wishes to ascertain to what extend immersive theatre and performance correspond to an age-old wish to evoke an immediate or authentic experience beyond the limits of representation. Today, this wish seems to have reached a point of culmination, as the fast development of digital technology enables a rupture of the theatrical frame and brings the depicted world within reach of the beholder. Key term in the discourse surrounding immersive theatre and performance is (tele)presence, commonly referred to as a cognitive sense of ‘being there’ in a virtual environment. As the spectator is transferred into the alleged inside of the image, new paths of dramatic action as well as novel approaches to participative audience engagement are explored. Staging the beholder into the performance not only amounts to her cognitive sense of engagement; her role moreover shifts from spectator to participant.

Through some detailed historical case studies, ranging from theatrical roman frescos, magic lantern performances to digital theatre, this project aims to survey the visceral power and the particular ways of address inherent in immersive performance, which amounts to a heightened sense of being present in the diegetic world. This contains the analysis of the actual means – the strategies and techniques – by which a performance builds into its structure and anticipates a certain type of immersive reception and invitation to participate, navigate, negotiate and change the thread of a story. By focussing on the artistic strategies that always already implicate the presence of a viewer, the aim is to develop a cognitive framework that furthers the insights into these changing conditions of interactive spectatorship and participatory theatre. 

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