THIS PRESENTATION – http://malta.olchowski.info
9th Annual Conference of the School of Performing Arts University of Malta
2023 22–24 March 2023, Valletta Campus and Online
DAY 2 – THURSDAY 23 MARCH 2023 13:30-15:00 – Parallel session: panel 1 – Meditated Sounds and Motions
Environmental Activism and Immersive Media:
Political Protest and Eco-Performance (DRAFT)
immersive media, 360-degree video, performance, ecoperformance, environmental activism, art protests, socially engaged art, social art, political art
Wojciech Voytek Olchowski (Voytshekh Voytek Olhovsky)
Doctoral School of Lodz Film School – Łódź, Poland
Wojciech Olchowski is a filmmaker and immersive media creator currently pursuing a doctoral degree in immersive media directing at the Lodz Film School in Poland and a guest doctoral student in immersive media production at the Film University Babelsberg in Germany. He uses immersive media to capture live performances and investigate the relationship between the human body and the environment. Olchowski teaches immersive media to students and believes that immersive media provides an opportunity to create visually engaging works that invite the audience to participate in a more active and embodied way. He showcases his research and projects, demonstrating the potential of immersive media to create unique and engaging experiences that blur the line between audience and performer on his website – http://olchowski.info.
SubjectArtistic performances have the power to serve as catalysts for environmental and social activism. By utilizing creative expression, artists can raise awareness, inspire change, and foster a sense of unity among diverse communities.
QuestionWhat is the purpose and significance of utilizing immersive media in capturing and sharing live or recorded performances, particularly in remote or endangered natural environments, with the aim of engaging audiences and empowering them to appreciate and protect these unique locations?
I understand that performance do not need need recordings or viewers, they are also performers experience in relation to nature. In 1986, Grotowski’s late works at the Workcenter in Pontedera, Italy, involved a departure from traditional theatrical practices by not including viewers in the performances of his ensemble. This approach was in line with the idea that performances, especially rituals, do not necessarily require recordings or viewers. Instead, they are performed experiences that are directed towards nature.
A present environmental catastrophe refers to an ongoing large-scale event or series of events that are causing severe, long-lasting negative impacts on the environment, ecosystems, and human societies.
Environmental activism has taken various forms throughout history, from political protests and lobbying to artistic expressions and socially engaged art (Adams & Goldbard, 2001). In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the intersection of art, technology, and environmental activism, as artists, technologists, and activists collaborate to raise awareness of pressing environmental issues (Bishop, 2012).
Environmental activism aims to promote awareness, understanding, and protection of the natural world by addressing various environmental issues. Key for me goals of environmental activism include: building a strong emotional connection between individuals and the environment through storytelling, art, and experiences, fostering a sense of responsibility and desire to protect nature and educating people about environmental challenges, such as climate change, deforestation, pollution, and loss of biodiversity, to foster a deeper understanding of the problems and the need for action.
The concept of ecoperformance (Baiocchi, 2022) has potential to capture the interaction between a performer and the natural environment, as well as its potential to raise environmental awareness. We also examine the use of immersive media, such as 360-degree video, as a tool for promoting environmental activism and fostering a deeper sense of presence. Capturing ecoperformance in an immersive video format could be a fascinating approach to encapsulate the interaction between a performer and their natural surroundings, as most of the field of view serves as the context for the presence of the human body. This makes the landscape and environment partners in the performance, as the viewer can choose to focus more attention on the image opposite the performer.
The concept of an „eco ritual” artistic performance blends elements of traditional rituals and ceremonies with contemporary concerns about the environment. By incorporating aspects of healing, rebirth, and resurrection, this performance serves as a symbolic act to mourn the loss of natural habitats, species, and ecosystems while also inspiring hope for renewal and regeneration. Such a performance might incorporate aspects of funeral masses, pagan exorcisms, or ceremonies for the souls of murdered animals to raise awareness and inspire action for environmental preservation and restoration. The performance could serve as a symbolic gesture to mourn the loss of natural habitats, species, and ecosystems while also celebrating the potential for renewal and regeneration.
There are primeval brain mechanisms for religious feelings involve the activation of neural networks related to emotion, social cognition, and self-transcendence, contributing to a sense of connection with a higher power or divine presence. Maybe only thing that may be strong enough to stop humanity from continuing to destroy the environment could be something like a mystical fear of the anger of, for example hunting ghosts or ancient gods.
By connecting contemporary environmental concerns with traditional rituals and ceremonies, an eco ritual performance can create a powerful and evocative experience. Drawing on the works of Frazer, Eliade, and other anthropologists, the performance can resonate with audiences by incorporating elements of ancient wisdom and symbolism, ultimately inspiring a deeper commitment to environmental preservation and restoration.
Immersion is a psychological state or experience in which an individual becomes completely absorbed, engaged, or involved in an activity or environment. This state is often associated with virtual reality, gaming, storytelling, and other interactive media, where the user feels a deep sense of presence and connection to the virtual world.
Even when experienced on flat screens of computers or smartphones, video games and 360-degree videos can be immersive due to the sense of presence and control they provide to the user. Interactivity, such as choosing the direction of view in a 360-degree video or making decisions in a video game, can contribute to immersion by enabling users to actively engage with the content.
Immersive media is a rapidly evolving field that encompasses various forms of media and technology designed to create an immersive experience for the audience (Cummings & Bailenson, 2016).
One such technology is 360-degree video, which is a type of video content that is designed to make viewers feel like they are inside the recorded space or environment (Mills, 2012). These recordings are made using an omnidirectional camera or a set of cameras, and they can be uploaded to streaming platforms like standard videos (Milgram & Kishino, 1994). Viewers can interact with 360-degree videos by rotating the image using a cursor on the video image or by wearing a VR headset, such as the Oculus Quest (Luckerson, 2015). This allows the audience to choose their own point of view, providing a more personalized and realistic experience (Riva et al., 2007). Actors’ role design in immersive videos can involve scripting human actions and narratives to engage the audience and support their immersion in the story and environment (Fuchs et al., 2018).
Virtual reality (VR)
Virtual reality (VR) as an immersive medium refers to a digital technology that simulates a three-dimensional environment, allowing users to interact with the virtual world and its elements in a highly realistic and engaging manner. Online virtual reality environments, such as Mozilla Hubs, expand on this concept by providing accessible, web-based platforms that enable users to create, customize, and share their virtual spaces with others. These environments can be experienced through VR headsets, computer screens, or mobile devices, allowing users to be fully immersed in the simulated environment or engage in a more casual manner. In these online virtual reality platforms, users can participate in a wide range of activities, from social interactions and collaborative work to gaming and educational experiences. By providing users with the tools to create and navigate shared virtual spaces, these platforms facilitate unique forms of communication, expression, and exploration.
Description of presentation formatI cordially invite you to individually explore the showcased projects, during this presentation – only briefly. To participate, you will require a computer with speakers or headphones, or a smartphone with headphones, as well as a standard-speed internet connection. This is not a substitute experience but an intentionally designed alternative approach to engaging with interactive 360-degree recordings of performances and online Virtual Reality content.
Traditional VR presentations are typically confined to safe 4×4 meter spaces and necessitate the use of VR headsets. In contrast, 360-degree videos offer a more practical solution. This immersive media format can be enjoyed on a variety of devices, including mobile screens, computers, and VR headsets such as the Oculus Quest or Vive.
Case Study Shooting Performance in Restricted Area Industrial Land Works – „Sector”„Sector” is an artistic project that employs butoh dance, immersive 360-degree video, suggestive sound design, and original music to express the controversial man-made transformation of a landscape and biotope (Olchowski, 2021). Filmed in a nature reserve forest on the narrowest section of the Vistula Spit, the Baltic Sea coast, the area was stripped of 10,000 trees in 2019 to make way for a shipping channel. Despite its questionable economic utility, the channel’s construction has caused significant environmental and tourism-related losses.
By utilizing immersive media to capture the interaction between the performer and the natural environment, „Sector” exemplifies how ecoperformance can raise environmental awareness and promote activism. The 360-degree video format allows the viewer to focus on different aspects of the performance, highlighting the landscape as a partner in the performance and emphasizing the human impact on the environment.
The performance of „Sector” was not only an artistic expression but also served as a form of political protest. By staging the performance in a restricted or sensitive location, the artists knowingly engaged in an act of civil disobedience, challenging the status quo and raising awareness about the issues they sought to address. The illegal filming of the performance further emphasized the provocative nature of the act, intentionally drawing attention to the artists’ defiance and the broader political implications of their work. Through this bold and controversial action, the creators of „Sector” aimed to spark dialogue, inspire change, and challenge the boundaries of artistic and political expression.
The 360-degree video recording of the performance „Sector” gained significant recognition and was showcased at numerous festivals, primarily as a group VR experience using up to 20 VR headsets simultaneously. These immersive screenings facilitated a collective and interactive experience for the audience, fostering a sense of shared engagement and connection.
Each screening of „Sector” was followed by in-depth discussions about the subject matter and the environmental crisis, allowing viewers to reflect on the performance’s themes and messages. Some events even featured live Butoh performances inspired by „Sector,” further enhancing the audience’s understanding and appreciation of the work.
In the era of online or hybrid events, festivals, and conferences, the online presentation of „Sector” offers a valuable alternative that can be accessed remotely by viewers. This format retains the crucial element of individual interaction, allowing viewers to engage with the performance on a personal level while still participating in broader conversations about the work and its implications.
By offering „Sector” as a virtual experience, the creators have managed to adapt their work for the digital age, ensuring that it remains accessible, engaging, and relevant for a diverse and global audience. This approach demonstrates the potential for immersive media to facilitate meaningful connections and discussions around pressing environmental and social issues, even in a digital context.
Other Examples of Ecoperformance 360 Degree Recordings
After making „Sector” I was travelling for an year and rerecording artistic environmental protests, also in remote places. Some of them looks nice, but I found that without some clear vision for immersive experience they are just documentations.
Here you can watch some of them – http://ecoperformance.olchowski.info
Case Study Communicating with Nature through Traditional Rituals – „All Souls’ Night”We are celebrating this ritual as an artistic and spiritual expression of relations and emotions between killed animals and humanity which is killing them in times of environmental catastrophe. This is penance and mourning but for the audience this is also a chance for reflection and looking for forgiveness and reconciliation.
We are giving animals voice and words for calling for justice.
The celebration of this ritual is a powerful representation of the relationship and emotions between animals and humans in times of environmental crisis. The ritual serves a dual purpose, both as a form of penance and mourning for the animals that have been killed, and as a platform for reflection and reconciliation for the audience.
We record performance with a 360 degree camera.
Case Study Exploration of Primeval Swamps, in Real and VR – „All Souls’ Night” (WORK IN PROGRESS)
We explored primeval swamps on Polish-Ukrainian border, we brought our cultural and nature inspirations to create online VR environment which includes part of performances and artistic interpretation of nature to space which may be explored by viewers individually.
To see this open the link, fallow and agree for options, and move in space using arrows on keyboard, and other controllers – https://hubs.mozilla.com/BBVhRhT/all-souls-night-exhibition.
More about those Project and more Eco Art
http://inhibitor.info (WORK IN PROGRESS)
Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Immersive Media for Ecoperformances
Using immersive media, such as 360-degree videos and Virtual Reality (VR), can offer a unique way for viewers to experience nature and performances in remote, unique, and endangered environments or ecosystems. There are several advantages and disadvantages associated with using these technologies for this purpose.
- Accessibility: Immersive media can provide access to remote and unique environments that may be difficult or impossible for most people to visit in person (Guttentag, 2010). This increased accessibility can allow a wider audience to experience and appreciate these ecosystems, potentially leading to greater awareness and support for conservation efforts.
- Environmental impact reduction: By allowing viewers to virtually explore endangered ecosystems, immersive media can help reduce the negative impact of physical tourism, such as habitat destruction and pollution (Neuhofer et al., 2019). This could help preserve these environments for future generations.
- Enhanced engagement: Immersive media can create more engaging and memorable experiences compared to traditional media, leading to a deeper emotional connection with the content and potentially increased environmental awareness (Ahn et al., 2016; Riva et al., 2007).
- Educational opportunities: VR and 360-degree videos can be used as educational tools to teach viewers about the importance of preserving unique ecosystems and the challenges they face (Makransky et al., 2016). By providing an immersive learning experience, these technologies can help convey complex ecological concepts more effectively than traditional methods.
- Technological limitations: Despite advancements in immersive media, there can still be limitations in terms of visual fidelity, audio quality, and interactivity (Cummings & Bailenson, 2016). These limitations may impact the viewer’s experience and hinder their ability to fully appreciate the environment being showcased.
- Cost and accessibility: High-quality immersive media experiences often require specialized equipment, such as VR headsets, which can be expensive and not accessible to everyone (Mills & Noyes, 2015). This may limit the reach of these experiences and exclude certain demographics from engaging with the content.
- Potential for disconnection from nature: While immersive media can provide a simulated experience of nature, it may not fully capture the sensory and emotional aspects of being in a natural environment (Kahn et al., 2008). Overreliance on digital experiences could lead to a disconnection from the actual environment and a reduced motivation to engage in real-world conservation efforts.
- Motion sickness and discomfort: Some users may experience motion sickness, discomfort, or other adverse effects when using VR and 360-degree video technologies (LaViola Jr., 2000). This could limit the appeal and effectiveness of these experiences for certain viewers.
In summary, immersive media technologies offer several advantages for experiencing nature and performances in unique ecosystems, such as increased accessibility, reduced environmental impact, and enhanced engagement. However, there are also potential disadvantages, including technological limitations, cost and accessibility concerns, the potential for disconnection from nature, and the risk of motion sickness or discomfort.