On Thursday 5th October 2023, the Centre for Creative Technologies invited Christer Lundahl to share his work at the Pervasive Media Studio, for those interested in virtual reality, environmental and social justice, and performance art. This included a fruitful informal chat with artists, researchers and creative technologists, to begin to draw connections between our experiences.
Christer Lundahl is part of artist duo Lundahl and Seitl, predominately based in Stockholm. Their immersive performances stage complex processes of choreography, connection, matter and time.
We were lucky enough to hear about the project Lundahl and Seitl have been working on since 2022; River Biographies. We found out about the inspiration between this project, the challenges and the possible ways the project can develop.
‘River Biographies is an odyssey into the geology of the body as well as of the land, emphasizing that which is not human but of which you are a part. Taking the form of an hour-long session where an audience of 30 people explore embodiments of natural elements of stone and water to form a river collectively, the artwork exists somewhere between performance and a space for healing and repair. Like the life of a river is a measure of the health of a local ecosystem, River Biographies are living artworks where the shifting collective ability of the group passes through the artworks score. Each half of the group embodies the qualities of water and stone, respectively, to physically explore their relationship; the way in which stone affects the flow of the water and how water forms the topography of rock and stone, directing the water’s flow, and how both affect each other’s temporalities.’
We had an informal conversation inspired by our own thoughts and experiences.
One interesting conversation was around the experience of kinship through immersive reality. Questions were raised such as ‘what might it mean to occupy the body of a river?’
Becoming something else, human or nonhuman, may fall into the problems that arise with the promise of virtual reality being an ‘ultimate empathy machine’ (See Nakamura, 2020). Becoming water or stone may engineer the ‘right kind of feeling’ for a toxic empathy that molds the participant into an immersion of something they will never really experience. To be able to ‘walk a mile in the shoes’ of a stone or water in a river (an abstract concept in itself) may not capture the long duree and slow time of climate change. What may be the differences between ‘becoming’ stone or water vs ‘being with’ stone or water (immersion into the environment rather than the entity)?
The discussion then turned to possibilities of synchronisation and connection, thinking about trust and touch between participants, imagining possible choreographies between the ‘stones’ and ‘water’, and drawing from other artists staging of the connection between the environment, the self and the collective.
We thought about the role of sound during the performance; what sounds can we hear at different points of the River Thames? or the River Avon? How does our experience of immersion change when we sit by the water next to the Watershed, or the docks of the Thames in Deptford, or the Thames estuary running into the sea. What possibilities are there to use AI voice and a dataset from these sounds to create a sound piece alongside this?
The conversations were reflective, thoughtful and got us exciting about the connections between Sundahl’s work and our own.
Below you can watch more of Lundahl and Seitl’s work:
Symphony of a Missing Room
Unknown Cloud on its way to Berlin