Going under: entranced and embodied spectatorship
Time around Space: 360 Conference
Friday 21 and Saturday 22 June 2013, University of Plymouth

My paper explores audience space-time experience and spectatorship in 360 cinema from a practice-based perspective, and suggests that the manipulated environment of circular, surround cinema engenders an embodied layering of consciousness, a trance state that enables the agency of multiple strata of the self.

The props of the cinematic apparatus create the conditions for audience entrancement through a shamanic-led group experience enabled by the medium specificities - its repetitive visual rhythms of light and shadow and the perceived illusion of movement, and the ‘continuous act of recognition’ proposed by Maya Deren (1960) as the dynamic underlayer of dreams and memories which is conjured each time we watch a film.

I consider the temporal elements and spatial mechanisms at play when a continuous screen wrapped around a circular space, augmented by other presentation and participatory elements, creates the conditions for entrancement in the spectator.

My presentation is informed directly by my practice-based research as a maker and curator of artists’ moving image in video domes, with reference to Deren’s films and her theorisation of cinema, such as her notions of ‘verticality’ and the manipulation of space-time in film, and her ethnographic study of the voodoo mythology of Haiti, its ceremonies and rituals. In addition, to provide a philosophical framework, I draw on Luce Irigaray’s metaphorical repositioning of Plato’s underground cavern as a living chamber and offer an understanding the in which human pre-history, ancient Greece, twentieth century and postmodern cinematic subjectivities are simultaneous and interwoven in the embodied experience of the audience within the flux of the present moment.
Images: children entranced by 360 artists’ moving image. Photos taken by Kayla Parker 11 August 2012 during the screening of Katerina Athanasopoulou’s animated film Engine Angelic in the 21 metre diameter ICCI 360 dome at Welcome to the Treasuredome artists’ moving image festival, held on Weymouth seafront for Maritime Mix – London 2012 Cultural Olympiad programme. Note: about 100 people are seated on chairs placed around the circumference of the circular screen, with some standing in the spaces by the emergency exits - these are not visible in my iPhone photos because of the low light levels produced by the red hue of this film.