Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Structure of a Resonant Installation

As we understand it today, Resonant Installations have a roughly four-phase experiential structure, as follows :

1) Opening : The purpose of the opening experience is to both provide awareness of the body, our bodies, and to perturb our relationship with our body slightly - not enough that it become scary or overwhelming, but enough that our common defenses and modes of relating to the world and each other are reduced. We want to bring people off their centre. Typically, one experience won't succeed for everyone, but we seek to modify the relationship between self and body for a large part of the audience. This experience provides an opening within people, the possibility to accept new elements into the self.

2) Challenging : Having opened the audience to a new experience, it is now necessary to deliver such an experience - one that challenges our existing beliefs and understandings of who we are and what our relationship to each other and to the world is. Here, we are currently interested in exploring parts of the human identity that are hidden to us in our everyday lives, because they are either unconscious or automatic, or omnipresent all around us and hence no longer "seen". Our experience indicates that the means to achieve this are primarily non-visual, or that they have a significant non-visual character, and hence the middle section of the Resonant Installation is generally organized to deliver a proprioceptive (movement or tactile) experience combined with sound, sometimes scent, occasionally taste.

3) Closing : The installation must also have a closing experience, allowing a person to leave the installation space with a sense of having experienced something important, but to return to their lives with a sense of boundary, of being able to look back on the experience.

4) Follow-through : Finally, we have found that some form of follow-up activity is important. This is often where the learning and assimilation occurs, and is part of what bridges between the scientific and artistic elements of the installations. When the issues being addressed by Resonant Installations are sensitive, follow-through is essential.

Resonant Installations are of short duration... certainly less than 30 minutes, and sometimes as short as 5 to 10 minutes (not counting the follow-up stage). The idea is to engage our bodily senses intensely, but over a short period of time. Resonant Installations also exploit space and movement in ways that are informed by our understanding of spatial cognition, based on contemporary research in the cognitive sciences.

On Resonant Installations

The concept of a "Resonant Installation" has emerged from recent work at the interface between science, art, health, education, and culture studies. Although originally created by a scientist and an artist working together (Geoffrey Edwards as scientist, Marie Louise Bourbeau as artist), the approach is currently being developed and adapted by a broader, albeit still very small, community.

Resonant Installations deliver immersive, multi-sensorial experiences to participating audiences. They do not take place on a stage, but rather within a space jointly occupied by performers, installation elements, and audience. They are a cross between performance and installation. For the most part, Resonant Installations may use approaches similar to what is today called "New Media", although they may be realized using less technological means than is usually found in New Media productions. The focus is on delivering a powerful emotional experience to the audience rather than to focus on technology per se.

Resonant Installations seek to reach audiences through redefining our relationship to our body, and then use this as the "ground" upon which or within which other issues are addressed, in such a way as to deliver a transformative experience. This means that we are necessarily addressing issues of identity, both personal and social. Our experience so far suggests that Resonant Installations may offer a powerful way to reach audiences in ways that are non-linear, and not primarily intellectual, and hence provide contact with complex issues and questions in ways that may generate new understanding.

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