Audience improvisation in the immersive experiences: the sensuous world of the body in the work of Lundahl & Seitl

Machon, Josephine ORCID logoORCID: (2019) Audience improvisation in the immersive experiences: the sensuous world of the body in the work of Lundahl & Seitl. In: The Oxford Handbook of Improvisation in Dance. Midgelow, Vida L., ed. Oxford Handbooks . Oxford University Press, pp. 671-686. ISBN 9780199396986, e-ISBN 9780199397013. [Book Section] (doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199396986.013.42)


Audience improvisation in the Immersive Experience

by Josephine Machon

Alertness, intuition, instinct, sensitivity, control, action, reaction…attending…waiting…being…

…not instructions to the performer but terms that describe states of audience involvement in an immersive experience. The conventional expectation of an audience at a theatrical event is for passive listening and spectating, with only intellectual capacities being exercised in the appreciation of the work. In defiance of this, immersive events have evolved the idea and the practice of audience into spontaneous-decision-making improvisers within the work. Audiences in immersive theatres might continue to observe, to listen, to be receptive, yet now through direct involvement and embodied engagement, physically as much as intellectually charting their own journey through the event.

In concept, content and form, immersive work relies on its audience for intuitive interaction. Each composition, shared between creators, performers, designers and audience, activates an immediate, sensory relationship in the experience of work. This allows for exchange and embraces the play between choreographed and improvised moments. The sensual immersion in each piece enables audience members to retrace the immediacy and intimacy of these moments in any subsequent embodied recall of the work.

This essay analyses audience as improviser in immersive practice, drawing on the author's first-hand experience. Beginning with a brief overview that defines key terms and outlines the immersive theatres under scrutiny, it identifies some of the opportunities for audience improvisation established within an immersive context, considering the way in which such collaboration operates in diverse works; from intimate one-to-one encounters to large-scale, multilayered events. A close consideration of Lundahl & Seitl’s one-to-one work examines these ideas in relation to the unique dance that is shared between blindfolded audience member, performer and audio technologies. Recollections of the author's own improvisations in these events are documented in the first-person to reflect the immediate and subjective nature of interaction in this work. The subsequent critical stance - deepened by original interview material with the artists alongside critical theories from assorted and synergetic fields (architecture, literature, performance, philosophy) – mediate on the problems and possibilities of improvisation in immersive contexts. A merging across the the first and third-person register and across present/past tense is a stylistic feature of the analysis. Overall, the essay offers an approach to audience appreciation as embodied philosophy, performance theory that evolves from improvisatory practice.

Item Type: Book Section
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Performing Arts > Theatre Arts group
Item ID: 16974
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Depositing User: Josephine Machon
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2015 09:18
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2023 00:44

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