Penetrating Deeper into the Temporal Lobe

Blogpost by Barbara Nordhjem about the performance of CREW at DEAF2012.

I am always looking for art that messes with your mind and tricks your senses. The performance Terra Nova by Crew starts out as a perverted experiment with the audience as guinea pigs. In other words, I feel like I have come to the right place.

During the first part of the performance, I am placed on a steel chair as an observer. A line of people enters, wearing brown jackets and heavy backpacks. Their footsteps are slow and insecure, the outside world is sealed off by headphones and video goggles. Each person is accompanied by a guide, their movements are stiff and synchronized. It adds to the experience of seeing a scene in a totalitarian society. “The fear of death is in the temporal lobe, we are going deeper”, a monotone voice announces. The participants are then tied to wooden boards which are flipped backwards into vertical position. On the sideline, we can also watch a video projection, images of narrow hallways, is there light at the end?

Virtual body

The CREW performance explores the sense of where your body is located. When you see a virtual hand being touched via the video goggles and feel your own hand being touched the same way, you start experiencing the virtual hand as your own. In other ways, you sense of bodily self is moved into the virtual world, you feel like it is really you on the screen. This effect works with a principle called the rubber hand illusion. You can try the low-tech version at home by putting a glove on the table and keep your own hand hidden under the table. Let someone stroke both the glove and the real hand in the same way at the same time. It may then feel like the touch is coming from the glove and the glove is somehow you own hand.



Penguins on the brain

After watching other people drift off to virtual worlds for a while, I was taken to the back room and seated in front of a glow-in-the-dark square and a bare-chested man. This part was a bit lost on me. Maybe I was to eager to try out the technical stuff, or maybe I didn’t get the story. We were told about a trip to the South Pole as a metaphor for how the brain works. Call me conservative, but penguins and the frontal lobe just don’t belong in the same sentence.

Finally I get to wear the head gear and immerse myself in the virtual world. It does feel weird, and I am loosing orientation. I don’t really have the feeling of sensing my own body  Maybe I have read too many science article about the senses, or perhaps I should not have kept turning my head wildly to see how the virtual world moves along. Still, I was really enjoying this last part of the trip. If you are not a geek like me, you might even have more fun.

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