13 June 2022
Immersed in the work

From the environment to virtual reality

19 June 2023
Real Space-Virtual Space

Aesthetics, Architecture, and Immersive Environments

research: conference

Immersed in the work

From the environment to virtual reality

In recent years, there has been a trend for every experience to be 'immersive'. So suggests at least the rhetoric of communication and marketing, which promises us immersions of various kinds in order to make us feel physically enveloped in an interactive and multisensory environment. Thus we speak of immersive environments, immersive cinemas and videos, immersive exhibitions and installations.

Although the term 'immersion' in reference to artistic practices has only appeared since the 1990s in relation to technologies such as virtual reality, some researchers have attempted to reconstruct a possible genealogy of these environments well before that date. The immersive aesthetic experience would thus in fact be traceable in different periods, starting even from cave paintings in the Palaeolithic era, then reappearing in Pompeian painting, in the various strategies of trompe l'œil, in the Renaissance 'camera picta', in Baroque illusionistic ceilings, and so up to contemporary multimedia installations.

The first decades of the 20th century, furthermore, represent one of the most significant moments for understanding the relationship between art and immersion, when the avant-garde artists of the time experimented with the first environmental installations, defined by Germano Celant as “wall boxes on a human scale" in the catalogue of his famous exhibition Ambiente/Arte. From Futurism to Body Art (Venice, 1976).

Like the environment, the exhibition itself as an immersive device plays a significant role throughout the 20th century, as is evident in the close relationship between exhibition staging, design, architecture and the arts. Immersivity calls into question the role of the spectator, already reconfigured by experiences such as performance art. In this sense, the latest generation of immersive technologies and theories on the environmentalisation of images propose a rethinking of installation as image and image as installation, within a debate between art history and theory on the one hand and media and visual studies on the other.

Program

June 13, 2022

18:00 18:15

Welcome address

18:15 20:00
Conversation between Rosa Barba (visual artist) and Giuliana Bruno (Harvard University) Conversation between Giorgio Andreotta Calò (visual artist) and Riccardo Venturi (art historian and critic)

Surfaces and depths. Cinema, sculpture and installation in the work of Giorgio Andreotta Calò and Rosa Barba

June 14, 2022

09:00 09:30

Welcome address

Andrea Pinotti

09:30 10:30
Mieke Bal

Con-temporary: Thinking and feeling together

10:30 11:30
Lara Conte, Università degli Studi Roma Tre

Germano Celant’s curatorial approach, between immersive experience and archive practice

11:30 12:00

Coffee break

12:00 13:00
Annette Urban, Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Mutual assimilations: Unstable relations between work and environment in VR art and exhibitions

13:00 14:00

Lunch break

Giancarlo Grossi

14:00 15:00

Dive In: Performance in immersive environments

14:00 15:00
S()fia Braga, visual artist

I Stalk Myself More than I Should: Online narratives to disrupt and investigate Interveillance and digital bodies politics within centralized social media platforms

Julia Reich, Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Encountering absent bodies: The artist's doubled and multiplied self in virtual performances

Elise Jouhannet, Université Paris III - Sorbonne Nouvelle

Techniques and poetics of the submarine in film: A pretext for an archeology of immersion

Elisabetta Modena

15:00 16:00
Cristina Baldacci, Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia

The exhibition as a ‘scripted space’: Rosa Barba’s and Philippe Parreno’s immersive installations

16:00 16:30

Coffee break

16:30 17:30
Giovanna Amadasi and Roberta Tenconi, Pirelli HangarBicocca

Constructing experiences: The exhibition as an immersive device at Pirelli HangarBicocca

17:30 18:30
Vincenzo Trione, Università IULM Milano

Between Euripides and Wagner: Rock concerts

June 15, 2022

Federica Cavaletti

09:30
Elisabetta Modena, University of Milan

Immersive stories in contemporary art

10:30
Francesco Tedeschi, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano

Dall’interno all’esterno (e viceversa) / From inside to outside (and vice versa)

11:30

Coffee Break

12:00
Giuliana Bruno, Harvard University

The environmentality of immersive projection: The nature of scale

13:00

Lunch break

Sofia Pirandello, University of Milan

14:00

Dive In: Performance in immersive environments

Emilio Vavarella, Harvard University

Other points of view: THE ITALIAN JOB n.3, Lazy Sunday

Valentina Bartalesi, Università IULM Milano

“Metafisica poetica”: un approccio sensoriale alla performance filmica nell’opera di Laure Prouvost / “Metafisica poetica”: A sensory approach to film performance in Laure Prouvost’s work

Stefano Mudu, Università IUAV di Venezia

Deep See Blue Surrounding You: un ambiente immersivo composto di oggetti / Deep See Blue Surrounding You: An immersive environment made of objects

Pietro Conte, University of Milan

15:00
Dario Gamboni, Université de Genève

Mobilis in mobili: The house museum as a selfimmersion device

16:00

Coffee Break

16:30
Lucia Corrain, Università di Bologna, Filippo Fimiani, Università degli Studi di Salerno and Stefano Velotti, Sapienza. Università di Roma

Roundtable - Ieri e oggi: limiti e promesse dell’esperienza immersiva / Yesterday and today: Limits and promises of the immersive experience

June 16, 2022

Anna Caterina Dalmasso, Università Statale di Milano

09:30 10:30
Giorgio Zanchetti, Università Statale di Milano

“Looking glass”. Qualche riflessione sulla trasparenza come dispositivo di presentazione e rappresentazione spaziale / “Looking glass”: Reflections on transparency as a device for the presentation and representation of space

10:30 11:30
Roberto Pinto, Università di Bologna

La storia e le storie attraverso le performance di Jeremy Deller / The history and the tales through the performances of Jeremy Deller

11:30 12:30

Coffee break

12:00 12:30
Micha Cárdenas, University of California Santa Cruz

Algorithmic performance from FLUXUS to Augmented Reality

13:00 14:00

Lunch break

Roberto Paolo Malaspina, Università Statale di Milano

14:00

Dive In: Performance in immersive environments

Anna Calise, Università IULM Milano

Inhabiting the museum: A history of physical presence from analog to digital exhibition spaces

Margherita Fontana Università IULM Milano

Digital heterotopias in the metaverse: The (g)Ender Gallery by Cat Heines

Alice Volpi, The Bartlett School of Architecture - UCL

...Or we will do without the theatre: Challenging the urban space, how to draft a new city map through performance

Barbara Grespi, University of Milan

15:00 16:00
Alessandra Acocella and Cristina Casero, Università degli Studi di Parma

Spazi di stimolazione percettiva. Il contributo dell’arte cinetico-programmata negli anni Sessanta / Spaces of perceptive stimulation: The contribution of kineticprogrammed art in the 1960s

16:00 16:30

Coffee Break

16:30 17:30
Lucia Aspesi, Pirelli HangarBicocca and Iolanda Ratti, Museo del Novecento di Milano

Marinella Pirelli. Alle origini dell’immersività / Marinella Pirelli: At the origins of immersiveness

17:30 18:30
Alessandra Donati, Università degli Studi di Milano Bicocca

Ambienti immersivi e tutela dell’intenzione dell’artista. Le utilità del diritto / Immersive environments and protection of the artist’s intention: The benefits of law

Abstract and Bio

Giuliana Bruno and Riccardo Venturi in conversation with the artists
Surfaces and Depths. Cinema, sculpture and installation in the work of Giorgio Andreotta Calò and Rosa Barba.

When is it possible to speak of an atmosphere in relation to the work of an artist? How do light and space, sound and image become concrete tools for designing space? And in what terms do we define a work as immersive?

The dialogues which open the conference at Pirelli HangarBicocca aim to address, through the experience of two artists who have exhibited in the museum in past years, in conversation with two scholars who have an in-depth knowledge of their work, some of the central themes of the debate on immersiveness in contemporary art, a key concept continually raised in the description of works, installations and exhibitions, and one which is at the same time full both of expressive possibilities and of critical problems.

Giorgio Andreotta Calò

Giorgio Andreotta Calò (1979, Venice, lives and works between Venice and the Netherlands) realizes sculptures, large-scale site-specific installations that transform both fragments of buildings and entire landscapes. He has had solo shows at many art institutions, including Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan (2019); Oude Kerk, Amsterdam (2018), DEPART Foundation, Los Angeles (2017), SMART Project Space, Amsterdam (2012), MAXXI, Rome (2012). Andreotta Calò participated in numerous group shows including: 6th Quadriennale d’Arte, Rome (2016), Milan Triennale (2015), 54th Venice Biennale (2001). In 2017, he represented Italy at the 57th Venice Biennale.

Rosa Barba
Rosa Barba (1972, Agrigento, lives and works in Berlin) researches the language of cinema and sculpture, to realize works that reflect on the poetic qualities of natural and human landscape. She has had solo shows at many institutions, including Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2021), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2017 and 2010), Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan (2017), MoMA PS1, New York (2016) and Tate Modern, London (2010). Barba has taken part in many international festivals, including Yokohama Triennial (2020), Venice Biennale (2015, 2009, 2007), Bienal de São Paulo (2016), Biennale of Sydney, and Berlin Biennale (2014).
Giuliana Bruno

Giuliana Bruno is Emmet Blakeney Gleason Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University. She is internationally known for her research on the intersections of the visual arts, architecture and media. Her seminal book Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film (2002) won the Kraszna-Krausz Award for "the world's best book on the moving image." Other books include Streetwalking on a Ruined Map (1993), winner of the Society of Cinema and Media Studies book award; Public Intimacy: Architecture and the Visual Arts (2007); and Surface: Matters of Aesthetics, Materiality, and Media (2014). She has contributed to numerous monographs on contemporary art, published, among others, by the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum, the Museo Reina Sofia, and MoMA. Her latest book is Atmospheres of Projection: Environmentality in Art and Screen Media. 

Riccardo Venturi

Riccardo Venturi is a historian and contemporary art critic. He has published Mark Rothko. Lo spazio e la sua disciplina (Electa 2007), Black paintings. Eclissi sul modernismo (Electa 2008) and Passione dell’indifferenza. Francesco Lo Savio (Humboldt Books 2018). He has recently taught history of contemporary art at the Brera Academy, NABA and Aix-Marseille University. He writes regularly in several Italian and foreign magazines including “Antinomie”, www.antinomie.it, which he co-founded. 

Alessandra Acocella and Cristina Casero
Spaces of perceptive stimulation: The contribution of kinetic-programmed art in the 1960s

In outlining a possible genealogy of immersive environments, a decisive stage can be identified in the kinetic-programmed research developed in Italy in the 1960s and in particular in the installations created, collectively or individually, by the exponents of Gruppo T in Milan (Giovanni Anceschi, Davide Boriani, Gianni Colombo, Gabriele Devecchi, Grazia Varisco). An important part of their output consists in the creation of real environments which are characterised by a substantial technological component and aimed at stimulating the sensorial participation of the spectator through programmed effects of light, colour, sound and movement.

This contribution will examine the cultural and theoretical assumptions underlying these experiments, based on the concepts of integrated design, variability, dynamism and interactivity, and then will focus on the analysis on some emblematic works such as Spazio della stimolazione percettiva, a large-scale multimedia environment created in 1970 by Davide Boriani, Livio Castiglioni and Gabriele Devecchi for the 35th Venice Biennale.

Alessandra Acocella is a researcher and lecturer in History of Contemporary Art and History and Theory of Exhibitions and Installations at the University of Parma. Her research interests focus on art and criticism in the second half of the twentieth century, with particular attention paid to the Italian artistic avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s and the history of exhibitions and art in public spaces. On these subjects she has written historical-critical texts for books in the sector, curated exhibitions and participated in conferences in cultural centres in Italy and abroad.

 

Cristina Casero teaches History of Photography and History of Contemporary Art at the University of Parma, where she is an associate professor. Her studies have focused on the experiences of figurative culture after the Second World War and on nineteenth-century sculpture, with a particular interest in the links with political, social and civil issues in Italy at the time. Her investigations into the last forty years of the twentieth century are also in this vein, dedicated above all but not exclusively to the photographic image, analysed in its various meanings.

Giovanna Amadasi and Roberta Tenconi
Constructing experiences: The exhibition as an immersive device at Pirelli HangarBicocca

This contribution offers a reflection on different types of exhibitions staged in recent years in the spaces of Pirelli HangarBicocca by means of a number of case studies, including the solo exhibitions dedicated to Cerith Wyn Evans, Matt Mullican, Leonor Antunes, Laure Prouvost, Trisha Baga, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, and Steve McQueen.

There are in fact various ways in which the public has been encouraged to adopt an immersive approach to the works exhibited at Pirelli HangarBicocca. If in some cases the display of the exhibition itself, conceived and designed by the curators and the artist, becomes a device in which the visitor is immersed, in others it is the individual works or installations which favour immersive experiences, as is the case with environments, film projections and virtual reality. This contribution offers a reflection on the entire process of staging an exhibition, from its conception, to the dialogue between artist and curator, and to the fashioning, through cultural mediation and the Public Program, of conditions which can multiply the possible points of view.

Giovanna Amadasi is Head of Public and Educational Programs at Pirelli HangarBicocca, where she curates the Public Programs, learning activities and community related projects. Since 2011 she is scientific coordinator of the master in Management of Arts and Culture of Sole24Ore Business School. For over 20 years she has been working on cultural projects with a focus on the relationships between contemporary languages, innovation and territory.   

 

Roberta Tenconi is Curator at Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan, where she recently organized solo shows by Leonor Antunes, Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Rosa Barba, Neïl Beloufa, Maurizio Cattelan, Cerith Wyn Evans, Petrit Halilaj, Eva Kot’átková, Matt Mullican, Laure Prouvost, and the group show Take Me (I’m Yours). Part of the curatorial team of the 55th Venice Biennale The Encyclopedic Palace (2013) and of the 4th Berlin Biennale (2006), Tenconi worked as Assistant Curator for the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Milan, from 2006 to 2015. 

Lucia Aspesi and Iolanda Ratti
Marinella Pirelli: At the origins of immersiveness

Active in the Italian art scene, as a painter and film-maker, since the Second World War, Marinella Pirelli (Verona 1925, Varese 2009) stands out for her constant work of investigation, which has led to pioneering results in the field of experimental cinema.  She learned the technique of film shooting and editing in the early 1950s thanks to her employment as an animation designer and through constant study of film history and technique. Throughout her work, meditation on the themes of light and movement is interwoven with an attention to the body, her own and that of the viewer, and to space, understood as a medium. In this context, some of Pirelli's most significant works are analysed, with particular attention to those which trigger a direct relationship with the theme of "immersiveness": from the films of the mid-1960s, to Film Ambiente of 1969, a walk-through film structure that underlines the artist's innovative contribution in the field of Expanded Cinema, to Pulsar, evocative environments generated by moving artificial light sources, designed and produced in the early 1970s. Starting from the exhibition which the Museo del Novecento dedicated to Marinella Pirelli in 2019, the complex theme of the re-enactment of historical installations with a "live" component will also be analysed.

Lucia Aspesi is Assistant Curator at Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan. In 2019 she co-curated Sheela Gowda's solo exhibition, subsequently presented at Bombas Gens Centre d'Art, Valencia (2020), and Daniel Steegmann Mangrané and Trisha Baga's solo exhibitions (2020). In 2021 she curated the Cosmic Archaeology exhibition programme at the Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art, Turku, with solo shows by Tabita Rezaire, Alia Farid, Mox Mäkelä and Patricia Domínguez. Among her independent projects, Lucia Aspesi presented Ben Rivers' first solo exhibition in Italy at the Milan Triennale (2017) and co-curated the Marinella Pirelli retrospective at the Museo del Novecento, Milan (2019). For more than ten years she has collaborated with the Archivio Marinella Pirelli, Varese.

 

Iolanda Ratti obtained her master's degree in art history at the University of Milan, where she also graduated from the School of Specialisation. Her research has focused on contemporary art, with particular reference to museological issues relating to 'new media'. She has collaborated with various institutions, including ICCROM and Pirelli HangarBicocca. From 2010 to 2013 she worked in the Time Based Media Conservation Department at the Tate Gallery, London. Since 2014 she has been conservator at the Museo del Novecento, Milan, where she has curated several exhibitions, including the retrospective dedicated to Marinella Pirelli in 2019.

Mieke Bal
Con-temporary: Thinking and feeling together

The talk focuses on exhibition practice, taking exhibitions as the key to contemporaneity. I will make a strong plea for the mutuality between past and present, the encouragement of visitors becoming participants through soliciting affective empathic attitude, and the accommodation to make this possible thanks to the enticement of durational looking. I will do this through the theoretical analysis of what exhibiting means and does, and through a consideration of my recent video installation Don Quijote: Sad Countenances. One episode of this project will be the hook on which to hang my view of art-making as, not an illustration of by a method of cultural analysis. I request participants of the conference to take 8 minutes to watch the video Narrative Stuttering at Episode 6: Narrative Stuttering on my website beforehand. 

That short scene or episode from the 16-screen project will help me discuss all the issues I want to propose for the talk. 

Mieke Bal is author of 45 books and supervisor of 81 finished PhDs. Cultural theorist, critic, video artist and curator Bal writes in an interdisciplinary perspective on cultural analysis, literature and art, focusing on gender, migratory culture, the critique of capitalism, and political art. In 2002 she began to also make films, as a different, more in-depth and more contemporary mode of cultural analysis. Since then, writing, filmmaking and curating go together. In her 2022 book Image-Thinking (Edinburgh UP) she develops her ideas about how to integrate academic and artistic thinking. As a filmmaker, she made a number of experimental documentaries, mostly about migratory situations, and “theoretical fictions”, films and installations in which fiction helped developing difficult ideas. Madame B (2014) was exhibited in the Munch Museum in Oslo in combination with works by Edvard Munch in 2017. Reasonable Doubt, on René Descartes and Queen Kristina of Sweden, (2016) also travelled. Then she made a 16-channel video-installation Don Quijote: Sad Countenances (2019) and a short essay film It’s About Time! Reflections on Urgency (2020). 

Cristina Baldacci
The exhibition as a ‘scripted space’: Rosa Barba’s and Philippe Parreno’s immersive installations

This paper will focus on exhibitions as choreographies of objects and images, in which viewers are invited to interact actively with space and time by participating in a multisensory and multimedia experience. Rosa Barba’s and Philippe Parreno’s recent immersive installations in Milan (Pirelli HangarBicocca, 2017; 2015-16) and Berlin (Neue Nationalgalerie, 2021-22; Gropius Bau, 2018) will serve as main case studies. In the exhibitions of both artists every hierarchy is abolished. The visitors find themselves immersed in a hectic montage of images and shadows, music and noises, spoken and projected words, suffused and dazzling lights, which are produced by the strong physical presence of the exhibition apparatus (e.g. Parreno’s démodé theatre marquees; Barba’s vintage film projectors), as well as by the bodies of the exhibition-goers themselves. Time is the core element in the making of Barba’s and Parreno’s installations, which become like machines à penser; that is, spaces of reflection, but also of involvement in (real) time. Plural temporalities coexist and overlap transforming the exhibition in a loop. What visitors experience is a perpetual (but never the same) re-enactment of images and narratives that are partially dependent on the artists’ will, who like an orchestrator can only start but not control what is going to happen. The exhibition then becomes – in Parreno’s words – ‘like an automaton producing different temporalities, a rhythm, a journey, a duration’.  

Cristina Baldacci is an associate professor in History of Contemporary Art at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. Her research interests focus on archiving and collecting as art practices; reenactment strategies in visual arts and image theory; rethinking art history, archives, and practices in relation to the Anthropocene. Among her publications are: the monograph Archivi impossibili. Un’ossessione dell’arte contemporanea (2016); the article ‘Re-Enacting Ecosystems: Jakob Kudsk Steensen’s Environmental Storytelling in Virtual and Augmented Reality’, Piano B. Arti e Culture Visive, 6.1 (2021): 67–86; the co-edited volumes Double Trouble in Exhibiting the Contemporary: Art Fairs and Shows (2020), Over and Over and Over Again: Reenactment Strategies in Contemporary Arts and Theory (2022).

Giuliana Bruno
The environmentality of immersive projection: The nature of scale

How does an artwork express an “environmentality?” Can we redefine immersion, in critical terms, as a form of environmental projection? In taking up such questions from my latest book, Atmospheres of Projection: Environmentality in Art and Screen Media, my talk addresses the relation between projection and environmentality in the visual arts in order to question immersivity.

Confronted with the phenomenon of environmentalization, we need to re-imagine the ecology of representation. Positing ecology as an environmental relation, I will consider its artistic imagination both historically and theoretically. I propose that we revisit the environmentality of media archaeology to understand how this impulse is furthered in current moving-image projections in the art gallery that call themselves immersive.

I will especially address environmentality as it relates to movement and scale, questioning the relation between immersion and magnification. I will advance my argument by presenting the large-scale moving-image installations of the Danish-born, New York artist Jesper Just. Does magnification always imply spectatorial immersion? I prefer to pursue other forms of experience that arise when confronting an ecology of scale in art. What else happens when we scale? Can immersion be understood, more critically, as a form of environmental absorption?

Finally, in recasting immersion in these environmental terms, I propose that we think of absorption as empathic projection. Empathy with space questions the relation between the human and the nonhuman. In shifting from the human subject’s own immersive identification to a more critically aware, enveloping field of empathic projection, we can discard the prevalent human-centric position that pervades most immersive discourses. A different ecology of immersivity rises to the surface by relating the empathic “projective imagination” to “atmospheric thinking.”

Giuliana Bruno is Emmet Blakeney Gleason Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University. She is internationally known for her research on the intersections of the visual arts, architecture and media. Her seminal book Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film (2002) won the
Kraszna
-Krausz Award for "the world's best book on the moving image." Other books include Streetwalking on a Ruined Map (1993), winner of the Society of Cinema and Media Studies book award; Public Intimacy: Architecture and the Visual Arts (2007); and Surface: Matters of Aesthetics, Materiality, and Media (2014). She has contributed to numerous monographs on contemporary art, published, among others, by the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum, the Museo Reina Sofia, and MoMA. Her latest book is Atmospheres of Projection:
Environmentality
in Art and Screen Media.
micha cárdenas
Algorithmic performance from FLUXUS to Augmented Reality

Building off of my proposal for algorithmic analysis in my recent book Poetic Operations (Duke 2022), this talk will discuss algorithms in performance. Algorithms are far older than digital technologies. FLUXUS artists such as Yoko Ono created instructions as art, describing embodied practices in her book Grapefruit. Following this thread, one can see instructions as a basis for performances by artists such as Marina Abramović and Ulay. I will describe my own practice-based research into creating performance in augmented reality. My multidisciplinary art project Sin Sol included poetry, music, Lidar scans, 3D animation, live performance and performance in augmented reality to consider how climate change is harming transgender people, immigrants and disabled people. My current project Oceanic uses dance, poetry and Lidar scans to understand trans ecologies, ecotonal environments, as spaces that reveal the intersections of climate justice, gender justice and racial justice. 

micha cárdenas, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Performance, Play & Design, and Critical Race & Ethnic Studies, at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she directs the Critical Realities Studio. Her book Poetic Operations, out now from Duke University Press, proposes algorithmic analysis as a method for developing a trans of color poetics. She is co-editor of the book series Queer/Trans/Digital at NYU Press, with Amanda Philips and Bo Ruberg. cárdenas’s co-authored books The Transreal: Political Aesthetics of Crossing Realities (2012) and Trans Desire / Affective Cyborgs (2010) were published by Atropos Press. She is currently working on her next academic monograph tentatively titled After Man: Fires, Oceans and Androids, as well as a multi-disciplinary artwork about climate change’s effects on the oceans and a science fiction novel about the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. She is a first generation Colombian American. 

Lara Conte
Germano Celant’s curatorial approach, between immersive experience and archival practice
The paper focuses on the curatorial approach and theoretical perspective of Germano Celant (Genoa 1940 - Milan 2020), through immersive experience and archival practices, starting from historical and foundational exhibitions such as Ambiente/Arte. From Futurism to Body Art (XXXVII Venice Biennale, Central Pavilion at the Giardini, 1976). In that occasion, thirteen environmental installations by contemporary artists were placed next to reconstructions of environments from the avant-garde and neo-avant-garde periods, employing displayed gigantographs of archival documents as an essential part of exhibition set up and narrative. The historical roots of this experience carry through Celant's final exhibitions in which the practice of "performing the Archive" allows us to reflect on issues related to the overexposure of the document in relation to the immersive and sensory involvement of the viewer, and envision the narrative as a spectacular, eternal present.

Lara Conte teaches History of Contemporary Art at Roma Tre University. Her research is centered on the study of art and criticism in the second half of the twentieth century, focusing on alternative narratives, dynamics of reception, transnational relations, the history of sculpture and the relationships between practices, criticism and feminism. Among her publications: Matter, Body, Action. Processual Art Research between Europe and the United States. 1966-1970 (Electa, Milan 2010); Carla Lonzi: la duplice radicalità. Dalla critica militante al femminismo di Rivolta (with V. Fiorino and V. Martini, ETS, Pisa 2011); Carla Lonzi. Scritti sull’arte (with L. Iamurri and V. Martini, et. al, Milan 2012); Paolo Icaro. Faredisfarerifarevedere (Mousse Publishing, Milan 2016); Artiste italiane e immagini in movimento. Identità, sguardi, sperimentazioni (with F. Gallo, Mimesis, Milan 2021). Soon to be published: Sculpture in Action. Eliseo Mattiacci in Rome (Ridinghouse, London, with support from the Italian Council).

Roundtable with Lucia Corrain, Filippo Fimiani and Stefano Velotti
Yesterday and today: Limits and promises of the immersive experience
Lucia Corrain

Art in general, more than the other fields, appears to be at the heart of immersivity. As Oliver Grau has shown, it is still art that deploys a considerable genealogy with examples that resonate with the immersivity as proposed in contemporaneity. It is the current immersivity that constructs “constellations” which, as Benjamin put it, dynamically enact “the history of art [as] the history of prophesies […] which can be written only starting from the point of view of an immediate present,” where “every present is determined by those images that are synchronous to it: each now is the nowof a given knowability.”   

In the art historical field, however, it is almost mandatory to re-evoke a fully mannerist ambience where “painting” creates – without the aid of particular instruments – the near-total immersion, acting fully on the passionate dimension. The case in point is the Sala dei Giganti, realised by Giulio Romano between 1530 and 1535 in the Mantuan Palazzo Te. A stunning illusionist artifice that seeks to catapult the spectator into the heart of the ongoing event, to produce in them a sense of awe and estrangement outside the “frame.” 

Lucia Corrain is an associate professor at the Alma Mater Studiorum, University of Bologna, where she teaches "Semiotics of Art" on the Dams degree course and "Semiotics of the Visible" on the Master's degree course in Visual Arts. Her research interests focus on the language of the figurative arts in general and painting in particular. She is the principal advisor of the Palazzo Poggi Museum of the Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna. She is part of the editorial boards of the journals: Visible, Carte Semiotiche, Il capitale culturale: Studies on the Value of Cultural Heritage. She has published in numerous Italian and international journals (Versus, Visio, Visible, Degrée, etc.); her books include: Semiotica dell’invisibile. Il quadro a lume di notte (Progetto Leonardo, Bologna, 1996), Il velo dell'arte. Una rete di immagini tra passato e contemporaneità (La casa Usher, Firenze, 2016), La pittura di mercato: il "parlar coperto" nel ciclo Fugger di Vincenzo Campi (Mimesis, Milano, 2019); she has edited the collections of essays: Leggere l'opera d'arte II (Esculapio, Bologna, 1999); Semiotiche della pittura (Meltemi, Roma, 2004); Anacronie. Leggibilità tra passato e presente nel display delle arti (BUPress, Bologna, 2021); she also edited the Italian edition of Victor Stoichita, Cieli in cornice (Meltemi, Milano, 2002) and L'immagine dell'altro (La casa Usher, Firenze, 2019).

Filippo Fimiani

Immersivity seems to be no longer a promise of an exceptional future for a few, but the latest buzzword of the access culture of our present time, addressed to most of us, all digital users and consumers cozy with mobile technologies and amused inhabitants of hypertopia and visitors of augmented and mixed exhibitions and museums. Immersivity thus seems to be the latest frontier in the long history of the desire for transparency, which is both historical and technical and ancient and anthropological, and in which the social resentment of envy for an elitist artistic and aesthetic experience melts into a seemingly democratic extended feeling: thanks to a technological dispositive of mediation that temporarily denies itself as a material device and sets the phenomenological conditions for an experience without any transcendence and heterotopia, I personally inhabit a feeling-with and -in in which, at least for a time, my body literally embodies political or ecological passion (more than compassion). At the same time, this emotional embodiment leaves me alone, required and guaranteed by the sensorial power of my pathos and compelled only by the impotent potential of my action. 

Immersivity’s democratization also seems to be complementary to aestheticization and ratification. In fact, an immersive experience temporarily suspends the distances and distinctions between art and life and the boundaries between image and spectator, extraordinary and ordinary, uncanny and familiar: a place or an event, thrilling or banal and where nothing ever happens (like the heaven?), pleasant or unpleasant, one's own or someone else's, is made special (for who? Just for me?) and reconfigured and reenacted into a form of experience that is both intensified and inoperative, increased and defective. However, the agency of virtual experience does not always make a virtuous interpretative or ethical act possible. 

Filippo Fimiani is professor of Aesthetics, coordinator of the Doctorate in Human Sciences and Cultures and director of the Audiovisual Storytelling Laboratory at the University of Salerno. A member of numerous research centres, advisory boards of journals and editorial series, he is co-director of the on-line journal Aisthesis.

His works include El meu preciós cel blau sense núvols (2021), Aesthetics in Times of Contagion (with A. Mecacci, V. Zingari, 2021), Je est un autre. Mimicries in Nature, Art and Society (with P. Conte, M. Weemans, 2016), Faits et valeurs en esthétique (with E. Athanassopoulos, B. Formis, J. Lageira, 2016), Fantasmi dell’arte (2012), Labeling, Describing, Exhibiting (with P. Kobau, 2011), The Aesthetic at Work (with P-H. Frangne, 2011).

Stefano Velotti

Immersive experiences are not an absolute novelty of the last decades, although the new digital technologies, starting with virtual reality, allow a degree of immersivity perhaps never reached otherwise. But the promise of immersivity now appears with impressive frequency, not only in the vast majority of press releases for exhibitions and art performances, but also in advertisements for flats for sale, or for works that have nothing immersive about them. What needs does this offer of immersivity meet? Why are we attracted to being immersed in a reality that intends to escape a frame, even though it is cut out of the indefinite reality of the world? In response to these questions, it is possible to formulate some hypotheses on different levels: in relation to the constitution of our experience in general, to some characteristics of our current forms of life, to some peculiarities of what we call aesthetic or artistic experiences. 

Stefano Velotti is Professor of Aesthetics and Senior Fellow – School of Advanced Studies – SSAS at "La Sapienza - University of Rome". He has been Visiting Professor at Stanford, Yale, UCSB and UCLA Universities. He has worked in publishing, for Radio Tre and RAI educational programmes. He contributes to the cultural pages of national newspapers and periodicals. His research lies at the crossroads between aesthetics and social philosophy, on which he has published numerous articles and books.

Alessandra Donati
Immersive environments and protection of the artist’s intention: The benefits of law
For installations and for artworks to be reactivated, the identity of the work, and thus the basis on which to assess the artist's creativity, as well as its permanence in time, and therefore its traceability to the artist and its authenticity, are also determined by the information and project of the work itself. This information documents the artist's intention not only in determining the identity of the work, but also with regard to the ways in which it can be used, reactivated, its time and/or site-specific nature, the way in which it is exhibited, as well as indications regarding conservation or restoration work. For these works, the documentation contributes to identifying the object of protection, one might say, as it does for the score of a piece of music, without, however, confusing the claim for consideration of this intention with the claim for the protection of a pure idea.

Alessandra Donati, expert on Art Law, Lawyer of Counsel at ADVANT Nctm, is Professor of Comparative Law at the University of Milano-Bicocca and of Art Market Legislation at Master in Contemporary Art Markets NABA. She is Director of the AitArt Course for the Curator of Artist’ Archive and Director of the Master “Professione Registrar” at Accademia Guido Galli, IED. She is one of the authors of PACTA (Protocols for Authenticity, Cure and Protection of contemporary Artworks).

Dario Gamboni
Mobilis in mobili: The house museum as a self-immersion device

Museums created by artists and/or collectors in their homes and studios – or in structures meant to look like their homes and studios – are an important but neglected domain for the study and enjoyment of the immersive aesthetic experience. They were preceded by the genre of the artist’s house and created from the early nineteenth century to the present, starting in Europe and expanding worldwide. When their display is partly or completely preserved, often because their creators requested it in their will and endowed them accordingly, they have over other installations the advantage of being accessible in their multi-sensory reality, rather than solely through historic documentation. Conceived to be or become public, they are directed toward the visitors’ experience, which they organize as a living totality to which the impression of domesticity contributes. But first and foremost, during the process of their making, they offer to their author, the inhabitant of the “house”, a long-term immersive experience that can mean self-discovery and self-fashioning, leading from the fluidity of changing moods to the (apparent) fixity of a mausoleum. This presentation will examine examples and aspects of this type of environments, with an accent on the turn of 1900, a period informed by the psychology of empathy and the aesthetics of polysemy. It will also point out, in relation to the notion of “immersion”, the marine metaphors employed by their creators, commentators and visitors.

Dario Gamboni is Emeritus Professor of Art History at the University of Geneva. He was a Fellow at CASVA, the Henry Moore Institute, the Clark Art Institute, the Freie Universität Berlin, the Swiss Institute for Art Research, the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, the Getty Research Institute, and a guest professor across three continents. He has written extensively on the visual arts, especially Western art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and co-curated exhibitions including Iconoclash and Making Things Public in Karlsruhe (ZKM), and Une image peut en cacher uneautre in Paris (Grand Palais). His books include The Destruction of Art: Iconoclasm and Vandalism since the French Revolution (1997), Potential Images: Ambiguity and Indeterminacy in Modern Art (2002), The Brush and The Pen: Odilon Redon and Literature (1989/2011), and Paul Gauguin: The Mysterious Centre of Thought (2013/2014). His latest publications are The Museum as Experience: An Email Odyssey through Artists’ and Collectors’ Museums (2019/2020) and The Aesthetics of Marble: From Late Antiquity to the Present (co-edited with Gerhard Wolf and Jessica N. Richardson, 2021). 

Elisabetta Modena
Immersive stories in contemporary art

VR artworks transport the viewer into a different space-time and give shape to 360° story worlds. However, this is not an exclusive feature of these experiences: for example, the sensation of physical immersion that one feels when wearing a helmet is also a feature of installation art. Within this framework, artists can design abstract immersive experiences aimed at eliciting a physical, perceptual, and emotional reaction, while also telling a story. Sometimes artists leave clues or hints referring to the stories across the environment (be it analogue, digital or mixed); some others build real scripts linked to fictional characters or based on real/plausible events.

Analyzing several case studies, this paper aims at illustrating some of the most compelling critical issues related to the relationship between environmental installation, virtual environments, and the construction of “immersive narratives”, in order to highlight continuities and discontinuities concerning a topic that is still marginally considered in contemporary critical debate.

Elisabetta Modena is PhD in History of Art (University of Parma 2010). She is currently a postdoctoral fellow within the ERC Advanced Grant “AN-ICON” coordinated by Andrea Pinotti at the University of Milan. Within the project, she studies the relationship between contemporary art and new technologies such as VR, and the different forms of immersive storytelling.

She has been a research fellow at CSAC of the University of Parma (2017-2018) as well as an adjunct professor at the Accademia di Belle Arti SantaGiulia in Brescia, University of Bologna and University of Milan. She is the author of the books: La Triennale in mostra. Allestire ed esporre tra studio e spettacolo (1947-1954) (Scripta Edizioni, 2015) and Nelle storie. Arte, cinema e media immersivi (Carocci editore, 2022). As a curator, she has organised national and international exhibitions (MAMbo, Bologna; MAXXI, Roma; CSAC, Parma; MSU, Zagreb). Together with Marco Scotti, she is the founder of MoRE (www.moremuseum.org), a digital museum dedicated to unrealised and refused contemporary art projects

Roberto Pinto
The history and the tales through the performances of Jeremy Deller

“I wanted to make a memorial that was alive, not an object or set of objects to make a pilgrimage to; a memorial that would come to you, that would appear in your city, town or shopping centre, intervening in your daily life”. With these words Jeremy Deller introduces us to his We Are Here Because We Are Here, a true monument celebrating the centenary of the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916, in which almost twenty thousand British soldiers succumbed. In fact, with the help of Rufus Norris, director of the National Theatre, Deller organised a gigantic mass performance in which about 2000 volunteers worked, disguised as soldiers of the First World War who wandered around the main cities of the United Kingdom without anyone having warned the citizens of their presence. 

In my paper I will try to investigate, through Deller’s work (and through the comparison with other artistic experiences), how some contemporary artistic interventions try to exploit the mechanisms of performance in order to reconstruct historical events not only relying on the strategies of re-enactment, but also resorting to an immersive and unexpected relationship able to produce an extreme involvement. We Are Here Because We Are Here thus contributes to the reconstruction of memory not through the description of historical facts, nor even through their celebration, but through a process that solicits the emotional states to which, in the harshest moments of the war, the community is subjected. 

Roberto Pinto, editor-in-chief of Flash Art (1993-1996), from the mid-nineties began his career as a curator. Among the exhibitions curated are the 5th Biennial of Gwangju, Korea (2004), the Third Biennial of Tirana (2005), and he is currently curator of the public art project ArtLine for the Municipality of Milan. Among his publications it is worth mentioning: Lucy Orta (Phaidon, 2003),
Nuove Geografie Artistiche (Postmedia, 2012) and Artisti di carta. Territori di confine tra arte letteratura (Postmedia, 2016). He is Associate Professor of History of Contemporary Art at Department of the Arts, University of Bologna.
Francesco Tedeschi
From inside to outside (and vice versa)

This contribution will focus on some aspects of the roots of environmental art in Italy, with reference to works created between the 1950s and 1960s by Lucio Fontana, to environments designed by members of Gruppo T and other artists (Giulio Paolini, Luciano Fabro) in the 1960s, and through to reflections on the different uses of space that were defined with the exhibition Lo spazio dell’immagine held in Foligno in 1967. The approach is not, however, that of a historical review of well-known events, but of an investigation into the way to understand the relationship between outside and inside, the sense and value of the "passage", the conception of the modifying factors, starting with light, which have acted on the definition of space as an element to be traversed, rather than a place to be in, emphasising the dynamics that define a dialectical, if not antithetical, relationship with respect to architectural and design qualities in the proper sense, leading to reading the environmental art intervention as an invitation to follow a path.

Francesco Tedeschi is Professor of Contemporary Art History, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and Director of the Research Centre on Abstract Art in Italy (CRA.IT). He cultivates a particular interest in the relationship between contemporary art projects and interventions and their spatial connotation, both in the physical and geographical sense. Among his publications in this sense: Lo spazio ridefinito (Provincia di Milano / Mazzotta, Milano, 1998), Il mondo ridisegnato. Arte e geografia nella contemporaneità (Vita e Pensiero, Milano, 2011); Luoghi di transizione (Scholé / Morcelliana, Brescia, 2020).

Vincenzo Trione
Between Euripides and Wagner: Rock concerts

Among the least critically and theoretically investigated practices, rock concerts reactivate and reconstitute ancient practices and postmodern artifices. They invoke the tradition of classical tragedy and, at the same time, take up the artifice of re-enactment. They are also part of the horizon of contemporary Dionysism. And, above all, they relaunch the Wagnerian utopia of Gesamtkunstwerk.

Concerts – from those of David Bowie to Pink Floyd to U2 – are not only popular moments of entertainment and relaxation, but authentic total works of art. Immersive installations that call to be lived and continued by the audience. Changing aggregates of artistic experiences in which the audience is a decisive part. Mediascapes in which communication technologies, theatrical performances, environmental contexts and artistic experimentation meet, interact and recombine, each relinquishing some of their own prerogatives. Acting, music and dance coexist. Music, architecture, cinema, video art, performance and happenings combine in an enveloping, synaesthetic dimension. This decrees the definitive demise of certain late-idealist positions. The traditional limits that separated avant-garde and consumer production are definitively challenged. It is pointless to re-propose dichotomies that are now obsolete. It is more opportune to abandon the fixed demarcations that separate one form from another, and to question ourselves on the opportunities offered by the interstitial spaces, where anything can happen. Only in this way will it be possible to meet an increasingly widespread demand for “art”. This is manifested first and foremost in events such as the great rock concerts (from Woodstock to Live 8), in which a sort of anti-metaphysical heterotopia triumphs. As Gianni Vattimo has pointed out, we can see 'the ornamental essence of mass society culture', the ephemeral quality of its products, 'the eclecticism that dominates it, the impossibility of recognising any essentiality in it'. These events fully correspond to the “Wesen of the aesthetic in late modernity”. The bewildering aspect prevails over the comforting aspect. In Heideggerian terms, the "earth" imposes itself on the "world".

Vincenzo Trione is Professor of Art and Media and History of Contemporary Art at IULM University in Milan, where he is Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Tourism. He is President of the School of Cultural Heritage and Activities. He collaborates with the Corriere della Sera. He has curated exhibitions in Italian and foreign museums and the Italian Pavilion at the LVI Venice Biennale (2015). Director of the Enciclopedia Treccani dell’Arte Contemporanea, he is the author of monographs on Apollinaire, Soffici and de Chirico. His books include Effetto città. Arte cinema modernità (2014), Contro le mostre (with Tomaso Montanari, 2017), L'opera interminabile. Arte e XXI secolo (2019) and Artivismo. Arte, politica, impegno (2022).

Annette Urban
Mutual assimilations: Unstable relations between work and environment in VR art and exhibitions

Within its cross-media theorization, immersion is centrally linked to various forms of unframing and to giving the beholder the feeling of being situated in the midst of an image. When re-interrogated from the perspective of the environment and site-related art, further aspects of the spatialization of the artwork come into view. They have broken down significantly its status as work and already reconfigured the aesthetic experience understood as subject-object relation. 

This de-differentiation between the work, its spatial surroundings and, by consequence, the exhibition display, comes to a head in recent examples of VR art. Their closed imaginary worlds present themselves simultaneously as spatialized image and as an assemblage of things in space. Analogous to the in-world scenarios, installative settings are used to embed the headset-based VR experiences into the exhibition space. Conversely, ambient virtual works are often implemented in virtual exhibitions that are themselves conceived as environments.  

The paper seeks to explore the mutual assimilations and shared agencies that the otherwise distinct entities of art objects, space and even beholders undergo in encountering each other as virtual agents and
im
/material image-objects. These entanglements often come along with a non-hierarchical agenda, but are deeply rooted in the defaults of interaction design and of its platforms. Particularly revealing are VR art works,
whose
in-world designs directly borrow from the model of exhibition and exhibit or from site-related strategies thereby reinforcing the hybridization of the work, its display and (architectural) context. Finally, the effects of the potentiated
environmentalization
that result from nesting VR art works and exhibitions are put into discussion.

Annette Urban, PhD, is Assistant Professor of History of Modern Art, with main focus on photography and new media, at the Ruhr-University Bochum (Germany). Since 2016 she is co-applicant and board member of the Research Training Group “Das Dokumentarische. Exzess und Entzug”, funded by the DFG. Currently she is participating in different interdisciplinary research initiatives, dealing with immaterial-digital labor in contemporary art, lifeworldliness of VR art and literature within digital art. 

Emilio Vavarella
Other Points of View: THE ITALIAN JOB n.3, Lazy Sunday

Emilio Vavarella discusses Lazy Sunday, the third work in his THE ITALIAN JOB series, in dialogue with Sofia Pirandello. This series, developed between the United States and Italy since 2014, is composed of thematically linked conceptual artworks (“jobs”) focused on the hidden structures behind virtuality, artistic legitimization, immaterial labor and the relationship between artists and curators in the age of the Internet. Lazy Sunday was developed in response to an invitation to take part, from the United States, in a virtual residency program organized by the AN-ICON research group at the University of Milan. Vavarella joined the residency but overturned its premises: rather than participating from afar, he turned his point of view into a digital window open to anyone’s participation. The work consists of a 12-hour long film produced with a 360° camera and shot without interruption on August 8th, 2021, turning a day like many others into a Virtual Reality experience. The film is then made available for only one day, from morning to night, during the twelve hours corresponding to the facts filmed. Caught in the tension between ideas of public and private, refusal and participation, proximity and distance, Vavarella’s point of view is turned into an environmental field to be inhabited, for a brief time, by others. And suspended between apparent immediacy and deep mediation, his body becomes an avatar, virtually distant and yet intimately close.

Emilio Vavarella is an Italian artist and researcher currently based at Harvard University and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. His work is based on interdisciplinary and experimental practices and is regularly exhibited in the most important museums and cultural centers of the world, among which: MAXXI Museum (Rome); KANAL – Centre Pompidou (Bruxelles); Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg); MAMbo Museum (Bologna); MADRE Museum (Naples); The Photographers’ Gallery (London); Museo Nacional Bellas Artes (Santiago); National Art Center (Tokyo); Contemporary Art Museum (Zagreb); Vojvodina Museum (Novi Sad); Museum of Science (Barcelona); EMAF – European Media Arts Festival (Osnabrück); Rencontres International (Paris); JMAF – Japan Media Arts Festival (Tokyo); Stuttgarter Filmwinter – Festival for Expanded Media (Stuttgart) and BVAM – Media Art Biennale (Santiago).

Giorgio Zanchetti
“Looking glass”: Reflections on transparency as a device for the presentation and representation of space

Today the locution “looking glass” survives almost exclusively thanks to the extraordinary success of Lewis Carroll’s novel Through the Looking-Glass. This expression underlines the ambiguity between the glass surface intended as a device through which we can see the world or as an actual object to be “looked at”. Apparently the early Renaissance perspective window, thanks to the mildness of the Mediterranean climate, did not need any panes. And certainly, even when glass panes are there, they are usually not reproduced in painting. The glass main virtue is its transparency, which makes it almost invisible. Something similar happens with other “glasses” specifically made to look through them: the drinking glass and the lens. Glass panes appear to sight only when different practical needs come into play, as in perspective drawing machines, or when its transparency is contradicted by a precise action that compromises or denies it: when panes are broken, as in this enigmatic portrait of early XIX c., or voluntarily covered, like for a blackout, as in Duchamp’s Fresh Widow. 

Looking through the glass, looking at the image reflected in the mirror and, finally, looking at the glass itself, as a device for presenting and representing spaces, are three recurring attitudes in the work of Italian artists of the late twentieth century, like Lucio Fontana and Luciano Fabro. 

Giorgio Zanchetti, born in Siena in 1966, lives and works in Milan. He is Full professor of History of Contemporary Art and History and criticism of verbo-visual art at Università degli Studi di Milano. His interests are focused on Italian sculpture in XIX and XX c. and in contaminations between different artistic languages in XX c. (from avant-garde to Intermedia and Conceptual Art). He works as scientific consultant for Italian and foreign museum institutions and has curated several exhibitions.
Roberto Paolo Malaspina and Sofia Pirandello (edited by)
Dive In: Performance in immersive environments

The international conference hosts the section Dive In: Performance in immersive environments, curated by Roberto Paolo Malaspina and Sofia Pirandello. Forming an integral part of the conference as a whole, Dive In focuses on those artistic practices, such as performance art, which have best addressed and questioned the relationship between body and space, and which are thus found to be a privileged investigative tool in understanding the ways in which this relationship evolves and changes even in the most compelling contemporary context.

The broader context of performance art has, in fact, always investigated the complex connections existing between bodies, spaces, artists and the public, in order to generate forms of meaning which go beyond a specific material medium (consider the foundational practices of Marina Abramović, Joseph Beuys, Wolf Vostell, FLUXUS, Viennese Actionism or theatre groups such as Environmental Theatre and Richard Schechner's Performance Group). The experiences of twentieth-century avant-garde performance artists threw into confusion the notion, typically associated with artistic creation, of art as an artefact and opened the door to new forms of experience which resisted aesthetic interpretations founded on the traditional division between subject and object (Fischer-Lichte 2008). Recently invented media such as Virtual or Augmented Reality seem to resonate strongly with such characteristics: They function exclusively in relation to the user's body and its agentive space, conceal the objective nature of the medium itself, which becomes progressively more transparent, and generate images presenting themselves as immersive environments or parts of such (Pinotti 2017) These so-called new digital technologies have increasingly led to a performative dimension on the part of their users, who are constantly connected to their artefacts and their own context of action. They show a tendency towards miniaturisation, which, from portability to wearability, reaches the point of progressive disappearance as much in physical space, which becomes responsive and smart (Crescimanno 2015), as in the human body, which is increasingly referred to employing the term cyborg (Haraway 1985; Clark 2004; Braidotti 2019).

Dive In, therefore, asks how these most recent digital technologies enter into dialogue with performance art practices, causing transformative consequences on both sides. If, on the one hand, these technologies have inevitable consequences on artistic actions and practices, on the other, it is art itself that invests the means it employs with new meaning and with cultural and political awareness.
How has a new technological paradigm dictated a reconfiguration of the concepts of body and space, their interaction and the artistic disciplines that investigate this? How much and what kind of space is there for the human body in technological and immersive environments? Can we speak of an excessive delegation of the body to technology? Can the spread of immersive digital technologies be read in continuity with the perspectives which characterised performance in the 20th century or does it herald a new way to interact with and act on space? Is the performative dimension of the user more or less predominant than in the past?

Dive In consists of seven interventions at the conference and four written contributions, listed below.

Valentina Bartalesi and Stefano Mudu
Dialogue on Laure Prouvost, I wish we could grab your image and touch you
Valentina Bartalesi
“Metafisica poetica”: A sensory approach to film performance in Laure Prouvost’s work

“The image is kissing you. It licks you” intimates Laure Prouvost in the renowned film Swallow from 2013. A voice-over in the amateur video Into all that is there (2015) whispers to the viewer, “Just follow me. Closer. We need to go deeper”.

Laure Prouvost was born in Lille (France) in 1978, emigrated to Great Britain as a teenager and trained at Central Saint Martin in London. She worked as an assistant to conceptual artist John Latham, from whom she derives both the interest in the substance of the work of art, multi-material and not infrequently made with collage, together with the curiosity for its essentially performative aspect. Prouvost was only thirteen years old when Tim Berners-Lee's World Wide Web was made accessible, and like many artists of her generation she can be approached through the lenses of "post-internet" artistic experimentation. There is, however, also a very interesting dimension in the way the French artist seems to rethink the performance practice, mainly by employing two elements. On the one hand, in her work there is the centrality of the image, more precisely the plastic quality of moving images, determining the surrounding environmental installation. On the other hand, Prouvost questions the Leib as a place of knowledge, Baumgarten would say, perceivable and sensitive. A knowledge that in her production appears structurally implicated in the ability of a body — human, vegetable, zoomorphic or electronic — to experience pure sensations.

Given such a centrality of the bodily element, it is not surprising to find in Prouvost a significant interest in the artistic experiments and theories of the 1960s and 1970s. In the same years in which the publications on prehistory by Leroi-Gourhan and Laming-Emperaire were coming to light, in the seminal Expanded Cinema of 1970, Gene Youngblood discussed a “Paleocybernetic Age” that would dialogue with the “primitive potential associated with the Palaeolithic”. In an extensive reference to the primordial, the artist seems to participate in that form of “polymorphous eroticism”, subversive and alternative to the entertainment industry discussed by Youngblood. At the same time, Prouvost weaves a lively dialogue with the work of those female artists engaged since the second half of 1960s in the performative praxis and, more precisely, in the film restitution of the performance. It is a two-faced performative dimension, which relates as much to the acting body as to the agency of the technical medium arising from editing, sound and the manipulation of celluloid.

From a historiographical perspective, this contribution shows how Prouvost’s video works intersect a plexus of perceptual strategies investigated in the 1990s, but dating back to the early 20th century, if not to prehistory. These include Ellen Dissanayake’s “Hands-on” competence, Gallese and Rizzolatti’s “embodied simulation”, Giuliana Bruno’s “site-seeing”, Laura U. Marks’ “haptic visuality” or kinaesthetic haptic perception discussed by Annette Michelson. Exploring in a sensual, ironic and highly interspecific manner the participatory experience that the viewer has of a body — or rather, of a variegated plexus of entangled bodies — acting on the screen, Prouvost creates a disorienting and layered proto- and post-cinematic narrative that, in dialogue with the present time, deeply questions its paradigms.

Valentina Bartalesi (1994) is a PhD candidate in Visual and Media Studies, Visual Arts curriculum at IULM University in Milan with a thesis entitled Haptic Feeling: Genealogie tra storia dell’arte, critica e new-media (Tutor: Prof. Dr. Tommaso Casini; Co-Tutor: Prof. Dr. Andrea Pinotti). Her main research interests cover visual culture, the connections between prehistoric and contemporary art, and the role of haptic perception within the creative process.

Among her latest publication: “Decostruire la somiglianza: il carattere mimetofobico del calco anatomico”, in Elephant & Castle, 2020; “Tracce mnestiche e itinerari mediterranei. La ’grecità’ in Paolini e Kounellis: 1960-1980", in Medea, Rivista di studi Interculturali, 2020; “Rethinking contact: the haptic in the viral era”, in Aisthesis. Pratiche, linguaggi e saperi dell’estetico, 2021; “III. Atmosferologie paleostoriche: dalla grotta all’immaginario”, in Piano b. Arti e culture visive (2021).

Stefano Mudu
Deep See Blue Surrounding You: An immersive environment made of objects

This paper sets out to analyse Laure Prouvost’s practice as an example of a creative approach based on the spectator’s immersion in intermedial settings composed of objects drawn from of different spatial-temporal sources. Ever since the beginning of the 2000s, the French artist’s installations have been presented as mise-en-scène with an avowedly naïve aesthetic which, combining video, painting, drawing, sculpture and performance, can be analysed as compositions of materials and references taken from the most disparate contexts - pop music, mass culture, the web and family albums. As if they were unstable visual entities, these portions of the work come together in different configurations, creating surreal atmospheres in which any hierarchical order between the observer and the observed object is suspended. The viewer is sent off to move through space, becoming an object among objects; he is forced to reconstruct the narrative in which he is inserted by means of clues and instructions; he is constantly tested by effects of splitting, repetition, manipulation and aggregation that encompass the sense and form of the composition.

Finding valuable philosophical support in Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO), this paper focuses in particular on the analysis of two projects presented by Laure Prouvost in recent years. The first, Dit Learn (2017), is a video which chooses objects and words as the protagonists of a wide-ranging reflection on language and which, engaging the viewer in learning new forms of communication, occupies a central position both in an extended installation at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (They Are Waiting for You, 2017) and in a play at the Kaai Theatre in Brussels (2019). The second, Deep See Blue Surrounding You (2019), is the exhibition project organised by the artist on the occasion of her participation in the 58th International Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. Here, once again starting from a video - They Parlaient Idéale (2019) - the artist creates an installation made of objects which affords the viewer the possibility of total immersion in a fathomless world.
After structurally and critically describing the two works, this contribution analyses their role as hyper-enactments (a term introduced by the author in the context of doctoral research): mise-en-scène in which the certainty of any perceptive orientation is lost, and which, precisely because of the random aggregation of spatio-temporally different materials, are to be considered milieus of images in which a narrative and aesthetic linearity is suspended.

Stefano Mudu (1990) is a PhD student in Visual Culture at the Department of Project Cultures, Iuav University of Venice. His thesis, supervised by Professors Angela Vettese and Cristina Baldacci, is entitled Re-/Over-/Hyper-enactment and analyses re-enactment strategies in a novel compositional and terminological perspective. As well as having written several essays on the subject, Stefano regularly writes for publications in the field, such as Flash Art, and is the author of the monograph Spazi Critici. I luoghi della scrittura contemporanea (Mimesis, 2018) and editor of the volume Altrove. New Fiction (Bruno, 2020). In the last two years, he has worked in the curatorial team of the 59th International Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, assisting the artistic curator Cecilia Alemani in cultural-historical research for the exhibition Il latte dei sogni.

S()fia Braga
I Stalk Myself More than I Should: Online narratives to disrupt and investigate Interveillance and digital bodies politics within centralised social media platforms

Over the past few years, I developed my artistic research on the social impact of web interfaces and the subversion of centralised social media platforms, by focusing on ways to avoid the culture of Interveillance, a participatory surveillance enabled by social media’s power structures, that leverages on the human need to auto-determine themselves.

Often unaware, users become an active part of these hidden power dynamics that are no longer based on control and repression of bodies, but on prevention through the promotion of beliefs and habits that leverage on processes of identification, and that manifest themselves in the form of viral trends.

Within my artistic practice I have outlined two possible methods that can be used as ways to subvert centralised social media platform dynamics. The first is what I call Data overload: an appropriation and manipulation of users personal content to make data unreadable (analyzed through my projects I Stalk Myself More Than I Should and Welcome to my Channel). The second is the creation of online fictional narratives and transmedia storytelling that I developed with the works Forehead Vulva Channelling Research and Die Verwandlung.

These projects have proven that the disruption of the user experience within social media platforms has the potential to engage with users and bring awareness with a non-manipulative approach.

S()fia Braga is a transdisciplinary Italian artist based in Vienna. She develops her artistic research between Digital and Post-Digital practices, focusing especially on the social impact of web interfaces and the subversion of centralised social media platforms, dealing with topic such as Interveillance and the rediscovery of the potential of the bodies through the use of new technologies. S()fia’s identity is constantly changing and goes hand in hand with the narratives she creates within her projects: over the last 3 years she has been an artist, a cyberstalker, a researcher and has mutated several times into a monstrous creature.

She graduated in Visual Arts (BA, MA) at the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna (IT) and in Interface Cultures (MA) at the University of Art and Design of Linz. In 2022 she is awarded by Bank Austria with the Studios Program grant.

Her works have been exhibited at Ars Electronica Festival (AT), Xie Zilong Photography Museum (CN), XII Video Vortex Conference (MT), WRO Media Art Biennale (PL), Deutsche Bank (IT), Schlossmuseum Linz (AT), Pinacoteca Albertina di Torino (IT) and more.

Anna Calise
Inhabiting the museum: A history of physical presence from analog to digital exhibition spaces

The present contribution wants to investigate how the use of technology is redefining the performative role of visitor bodies within museum environments. It will address the topic of the physical body of museum goers as an experiential tool and discuss to what extent its active, at times performative, use across museum settings has been and is considered as an important element of the cultural experience. This research offers a storeographical account which begins from visitor engagement in the early 17th to 19th century museums, where visitors were entitled and encouraged to establish active experiential relationships with both museum spaces and cultural artifacts, establishing the body, and its senses, as a decisive epistemic device. At this stage the physical engagement was not to be considered performative in itself, yet it preserved a spontaneous quality which anticipated the sense of freedom and timeliness later captured by performance art. After assessing the role of the body in the early museum experience, an account of the ‘disappearance’ of the visitor body in modern museums will be provided. In this stage the active effort to negate the relevance of a physical interaction with artworks will be called upon, through a discussion on the theoretical framework which legitimized the substantially intellectual-visual grounds for the aesthetic experience. Interestingly, this perspective has come to influence museum spaces and visitor experiences for more than two centuries, dictating a very aseptic and referential logic and dynamic of experience. This trend is just now starting to be countered through the revival of a more systemic and bodily understanding of these spaces, with technologies playing a very important role in incentivizing and characterizing this shift. The case for the positive interplay between museums and technological artistic experience towards a performative engagement of the visitor’s physical presence will be made through the case study of the Nxt Museum, in Amsterdam. This institution, which has only been open for a few years, has made it its mission to create “large scale, multi-sensory exhibitions which challenge assumptions and open minds”, working through media art. The specific project that will be here analyzed is the Shifting Proximities exhibition, which through immersive installations by eight different artists explores human experience and interaction in the face of social and technological change. Among the different artworks two will be taken into account – Zoom Pavillion by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Connected by Roelof Knol – thanks to the engagement that each of them allows with the visitor’s body. Through this last institutional account the research will complete its itinerary through performative action across museum experiences in time and space, arguing for the relevance that technological media can play in transforming visitors’ relationship with art through their bodies.

Anna Calise is a PhD student in Visual and Media Studies at IULM University, 2022 Visiting PhD, Amsterdam University. She researches the digitization of museums and the mediatization of the cultural experience, studying the museum in light of technological development. Philosophy graduate (King's College London) with two Masters in Arts Management (Federico II, SDA Bocconi), she has worked on participatory cultural strategies, coordinating the Matera2019 Community Program, European Culture Capital. Recent publications and conferences: Mixed Reality: frontiera dell’educazione museale (Piano b, 2022); Art History 2060, Davidson College; International Conference of Intermedia Studies, Trinity College Dublin.

Margherita Fontana
Digital heterotopias in the metaverse: The (g)Ender Gallery by Cat Heines

Appeared for the first time in 1992, “metaverse” is now an umbrella term that encompasses dystopian projections of future online social interactions and actually existing applications that allow users to communicate in real-time through avatars moving in virtual worlds. Setting aside the technophobic worries surrounding these scenarios, we will focus on some current modes of online presence that give us valuable hints regarding political and anthropological tensions that will inhabit such social spaces. In particular, the paper aims to illustrate digital strategies of subverting gender performance adopted by contemporary artists, as is the case of the (g)Ender Gallery (2021) by artist Cat Heines.

The reconfiguration of one’s identity through the embodiment of an avatar through technologies such as Head-mounted Displays and tracking devices allows users to model and animate their double, originating what is known as the Proteus effect. The theory of performativity, which provides gender with a new framework to understand its cultural and social basis, paves the way for a new understanding of the “performative” possibilities disclosed by the digital manipulation of the virtual self. The “immersive internet” allows us to create a digital body in a new, seemingly borderless space accompanied by overgrown feelings that the age of fixed identities is finally over. However, this enthusiasm must be mitigated by the awareness that the digital space is inhabited by the same structures characterising our ordinary post-industrial reality. 

From a transfeminist point of view, online social spaces accessible through VR seem to be hostile to a female-gendered audience: proof of this are the numerous cases of sexual harassment addressed to “female” avatars. Furthermore, their design itself is often modelled on a stereotypical representation of womanly and racialized bodies, as happens in the case of the “anime girl” avatar. 

Without falling into the temptation of equating virtual and actual worlds, the same power structures are repeating themselves since the technology responsible for virtual worlds is the outcome of the same capitalistic and patriarchal society responsible for the struggles experienced by society’s members in a nonhegemonic position. So, as it happens in the “real” world, also in the virtual one, strategies of hacking, diverting and subverting these structures arise, as is the case in the performance (g)Ender Gallery by artist Cat Heines. Set in the context of the sandbox videogame Minecraft, the installation has been completed in the framework of the 2021 residency organised by MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina (
Saskatchewan,
Canada). There, Haines exploited the user-interactivity of the creative platform to construct digital representations of her own body, dismantling the “cissexist feminist art canon”. In Haines’ Minecraft metaverse, transgender people can feel comfortable, safe, and in control. Furthermore, via altered in-game paintings and writing on note blocks, the artist explores her identity and experiences as a trans woman, building an enriching and intense experience, a sort of digital heterotopia.

Margherita Fontana (1993) is a PhD Candidate in Visual and Media Studies at IULM University, Milan. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree and her Master’s degree at the State University of Milan, under the supervision of Prof. Andrea Pinotti. In these occasions, she worked upon the relationship between some relevant moments of contemporary American art history and aesthetics. Her doctoral thesis, entitled Overlays: Stratificazioni del primitivismo statunitense (Tutor: Prof. Dr. Vincenzo Trione and Co-Tutor: Prof. Dr. Andrea Pinotti), is dedicated to the issue of primitivism in American contemporary art. Her main fields of interest are the anthropology of images and the political and social connotations of artistic acts.

Élise Jouhannet
Techniques and poetics of the submarine in film: A pretext for an archeology of immersion

In the field of screen studies and in the different ways artists used it, the screen has been theoretically and technically considered a threshold, an obstacle, something to confront with or even to transgress. This first definition of the screen, however, remains very frontal and static. It no longer stands if we confront it to the concept of immersion, which advocates a real habitability of the screen. Building a “screenology” and a history of the notion of immersion makes it possible to extend the understanding of the screen beyond the various existing contemporary technological devices. The concept of immersion, in its most literal, etymological sense, means to immerse all or part of one's body in a liquid, most of the time aqueous, and to remain there to experience new sensations. This primordial experience of immersion seems decisive to understand how immersion is now conceptualized and implemented not only in contemporary works, but also in older devices. Water, shown on the surface or in depth, is a recurring motif in cinema whether fictional or experimental. It is this recurrence of the aquatic motif, considering the great symbolic importance it bears within film, that leads to questioning these different uses, especially the subaquatic ones. Addressing the question of the submarine enables going beyond the simple motif of water as a surface or as a real metaphor of the matter of the image, and thus to move towards a real “environmentalization” of this element. There is a historical continuity between immersive experiments in virtual reality and the earliest desires to immerse the spectator under water. A study of the first underwater cinematographic experiments and of the design of the first large aquariums built for the universal exhibitions of the late 19th century is very useful to the identification of this continuity. Departing from the different issues raised by these experiments, we will see that virtual reality also recurrently resorts to water as a pretext to immerse the user in the work of art. The most exemplary work on this subject will be the virtual installation set up by Char Davies, Osmose (1995) which offers a literaldive into a virtual universe that operates according to the laws of the submarine.

The purpose of such research is to demonstrate how the aquatic element and the submarine especially, are both very useful pretexts for the effective immersion of a spectator into an artwork. It also aims to demonstrate how water and immersion therein are central to the current definition of the concept of immersion.

Élise Jouhannet is a young French researcher with a Master’s degree in Philosophy and History of Art from the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. She is currently studying Cinema at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. In the framework of her first degree in History of Art and Cinema, she has written on divers and the motif of the act of diving. She now addresses different questions about immersion in video art and experimental cinema.

Julia Reich
Encountering absent bodies: The artist’s doubled and multiplied self in virtual performances

Performance art in its historical tradition is a primarily body- and action-oriented practice, which emerges through first hand encounters between public and performer. At first glance, performance and virtual reality seem to be a contradiction in terms, as the latter reconsiders the body’s significance and actively separates the dimension of bodily (co-)presence from situational interaction. However, it can be observed that the practice of artists working at the intersection of performance art and virtual experiences with VR, AR and MR often departs from their own body and thus posits new questions with regard to these modes of encountering. Even if a physical body is technically not necessary anymore to create a face-to-face simulation (as e.g. AI-generated images demonstrate), its images (e.g. 3D-Scans) and movements (e.g. tracking methods) are central reference points for implementing immediacy and facilitating interaction between recipient and the artist’s virtual body.

On the one hand, my presentation will focus on virtual performance works, that use virtual doubles as a kind of surrogate for the physically absent artist body. This is paradigmatically shown in M. Abramović’s MR-experience Life (2019), where the impression of presentness is virtually preserved. Contrary to Abramović’s non-interactive doppelganger even wearing her typical red dress, the body movements of the unrecognizable virtual co-performers in Fully Accessible Body (2018) by BBB_ react to the tracking of the audience’s bio-feedback. How do these new forms of interaction are related to the perception of the virtual counterpart and provoke a shift in thinking about the creation of a collective experience given that virtual bodies are physically absent? And through which processes do the recipient’s bodies become themselves documented, become data in order to create an interplay in between bodies?

On the other hand, the presentation brings together virtual performance works that exceed the bodies singularity by multiplying it in the virtual dimension: M. Menegons I looked around you but I couldn’t find myself (2020), where the VR-user is immersed into a swirl of the artist’s lifeless mask-like faces, addresses the tense relationship between artificial image and corporeality and therefore destabilizes the impression of a lifelike counterpart. Does the virtually multiplied body become a reference to envision the users own physicality? And which roles are assigned or withdrawn from the users in dealing with the partly fragmented bodily artifacts? Which ethics apply to these encounters or are demanded by the virtual performer, for example when in Kin (2021) three doppelganger of C. Triebus back away from the approaching smartphone screen to avoid a voyeuristic gaze?

My presentation explores how these works not only challenge the transferability of bodily (co- )presence/absence and liveness, but also raise the question of how interaction between bodies can be rethought beyond the obsolete boundaries between physical/virtual. Finally, my presentation aims to compare the strategies of doubling or multiplying the artists body and puts their effects in discussion.

Julia Reich (M.A.) is currently working as a research assistant and doctoral candidate at the DFG (German Research Foundation) research training group “Documentary Practices. Excess and Privation” at Ruhr University Bochum. Reich’s PhD thesis on Arrangements of Absence in Performance Art builds upon her previous position as a research assistant with the Art History Department at Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, where she studied Art History, Philosophy, Media and Cultural Studies. Her PhD project questions the relations between performance and documenting practices.

Alice Volpi
…Or we will do without the theatre: Challenging the urban space, drafting a new city map through performances.

It is 1926. Antonin Artaud is writing the preface-manifesto for the first season of Alfred Jarry Theatre. Theatrical conventions had come to a standstill. The dramatist finds himself and his audience bored and nauseated; the only way out of the impasse is to invoke a new theatre where the performance is always unique and unforeseen. In search of a complete show, Artaud continues by providing us with a real-life example – an urban performance. What choreography belongs to places we inhabit? By comparing the police raid to a ballet, the author manages to reinterpret under a theatrical structure an event that belongs to the social dynamics of the city. What is staged in theatres has always been nothing other than the exemplification of events in daily life; and now, what happens in the city is nothing less than “a complete spectacle”–going so far as to deny completely the need for a deliberate place for it. Starting from Artaud’s admonition, the intervention aims to explore the possibility of analysing the urban settlements according to a plot that takes shape from the observer’s eye; from the gaze of those who attempt to navigate the city through flânerie to discover neglected theatrical events. The next step: reordering city’s spaces for our entertainment, drafting a new map where morphology does not follow any more conventional urban-planning guidelines. As architects, how can we modify the existing city plan to frame our performances within it? The rules through which we read the city, have changed. We can design world’s metropolis led by what we recognize as episodes, forgetting patterns that occur with urban design – circulation, functionality, infrastructure. We will understand how, when we get the chance of “draw[ing] a map to get lost” (Yoko Ono, Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions and Drawings by Yoko Ono, 1964), the urban space becomes scenography, the city’s noise soundtrack, the pedestrians our characters. When following random routes or moving according to someone else's itinerary, other people’s footsteps become means of transport, distance between A-B is no longer measured by miles. The city, the way we negotiate with its complexity and its cluttered plan, switch substructure. The city becomes a theatre.

Freelance architect, based in Rome, Italy. She is currently a research fellow at the Bartlett School of Architecture UCL, London UK. Alice has spent the last two years working as a designer in New York City. Parallel to her professional career, her interests have focused on urban planning strategies, how cities are evolving according to rules unconnected to them. The current research takes shape from her Master's thesis: A floating theatre for Buenos Aires, an urban mobile-performance device. Today Alice's investigation is conceptually directed toward the relationship between city and theatre, urbanity and performance.

Marion Roche
About Vanishing Point?: A performance for virtual reality environment and sound spatialization device.

I would like to present the state of the research that I carry out between philosophy and art through a work in progress, a virtual reality performance, Vanishing Point?, and the thoughts about immersion, body and spaces it raises.  

Vanishing Point?  is a performance conceived for virtual reality and sound spatialization device, the CORAULIS (Centre d’Observation en Réalité Augmentée et Lieu d’Immersion), newly set up at the ENSA Nantes, with which I have the opportunity to collaborate and take part in a residency program.

The performance plays with the relation between the different spaces at work in the experience of these audiovisual devices. Inspired by the writings on Eisenstein’s Glass House, the performer, wearing a virtual reality headset, builds an architecture made of bricks of glass to which sounds are attributed according to their shapes. By putting those elements together, it creates, at the same time, a sound composition. Immersed in a digital environment of glass, the performer gives to hear to the public around him this construction that he is building. The body of the performer is in the middle of the CORAULIS device and of the public, interacting with the VR environment, taken in a dialectic between immersion and emersion and centre of what I call a new reversed perspective.

The sounds of this architecture are spatialized in real time inside an immersive space allowing to place and move these sounds according to their positions in the created space. The room is no longer perceived as the form receiving the sound matter, but the performer who composes in real time allows to arrange the conditions of the taking of form of a global intensity field by the act of perception. The idea is thus to find an authentic listening experience.

The performance is part of a long history of the relationship between sound and architecture and shows that this relation is more complex than it seems, it is not only a relationship between matter and form, it is also a relationship between a system of forms and a system of forces.  

The aesthetics of the transparency of glass, inherited from Eisenstein, opens a reflection on the claimed transparency of the media-political systems, always more, however, vectors of mediations and opacity. This is how, in the Glass House, the community utopia is transformed into a voyeuristic dystopia of the surveillance of all by all. 

The relationship to immersive devices allows us to redefine the notion of the virtual, which can no longer be understood as a territory separate from reality, but must be considered in its materiality, having an action, a direct hold in and with what we call reality. The title also carries this idea that one cannot escape from materiality. This work helps me to think and define what I call a “digital milieu” in which a relation of dynamic co-construction between the digital media and the performer can happen. It also allows to redefine the notion of performance through a relationship to time and space, ephemeral and in situ, to highlight a processual aspect of those digital technologies.

Marion Roche is a French artist and researcher, born in 1990, living and working in Lyon, France. Art director of the LTBL studio, and teacher of philosophy at the university Lyon 3 and art history at the superior fine art school of Lyon (Ensba), she is also a PhD candidate in philosophy under the direction of Prof. Mauro Carbone (Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3) and in co-direction with the artist Bernhard Rüdiger from the Ensba Lyon. Her research in philosophy and her artworks are closely linked, and develop around the notion of process. Between aesthetics, philosophy of the mind and technique, Marion Roche is interested in new technologies, in particular immersive environments (360° video, VR, sound spatialization, etc.), and the perceptive and emotional changes they bring, redefining our body and thus highlighting a processual and fragmented ontology.

Anthony Bekirov and Thibaut Vaillancourt
How digital hybridization creates new performance practices: The case of alternate virtuality games

Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) are a set of hybrid ludic practices utilizing cross-media narration that emerged with the rise of the Internet, and which fall under the type of performance where the spectators are the main performers (Garcia & Niemeyer 2017). They are constructed as real-life treasure hunts, where the participants are guided by a puppet master in public spaces, through “rabbit holes”, i.e. hints distributed on social networks and/or websites. Similar to the artist who lays down the rules of the performance between themselves and the audience, the puppet master gives the players general instructions towards completing the game. However, whereas performance art is still closely dependent on the subjectivity of the artist, the puppet master’s (more subdued) role is solely to accompany the players in their experience.

ARGs have contributed to a less vertical relationship between work and spectator, as well as to bring performance outside of art institutions. Moreover, with the growth of social platforms online and especially YouTube, the term “ARG” has been used more broadly to refer to new dispositifs, which we call Alternate Virtuality Games (AVGs), such as This House Has People In It (Resnick 2016) or Ben Drowned (Jadusable 2010). They too are a kind of treasure hunts with well-hidden hints, but they are unique in that they are digital-native: they are strictly performed online and do not ask the players to go outside. The rabbit holes of AVGs are merged with the dispositif itself and are given as fictional devices. There is no apparent puppet master, nor apparent goal or treasure, other than finding new leads and new connections between elements of the “game”. The player/performer can thus view every aspect of their experience as part of said game. As such, AVGs are more akin to video games, as they tend to dissolve the object/subject dichotomy (Bekirov & Vaillancourt 2017).

Therefore, the persona of the artist is no more presented as a demiurge welcoming the profane audience to their performance. To access and participate in the AVG, the spectator needs not go to a specific place where their experience is being validated: the work takes place through the digital interface. In the case of AVGs, there is no clear delimitation between the space allotted to the performance and the one allotted to “real life”. The theoretical background behind this concrete blurring of subject and object can be found in Simondon, Bataille or Winnicott (Bekirov & Vaillancourt 2017). The immersiveness of AVGs is unbound by the space and time of a specific happening, and is rather experienced by a multitude of agents at different times and places. This characteristic of being an extra-individual experience as well as being independent from institutions also places AVGs within liminal experiences such as studied by Turner (Bekirov & Vaillancourt 2021). These performing agents dive into a state that mirrors our relationship to digital devices in a society of information – and control.

Anthony Bekirov has completed his graduate studies in Japanese Studies at Geneva University in September 2021 with a Master’s thesis on the experimental Japanese writer Kanai Mieko and is about to undertake a PhD in Medical Humanities on the topic of voyeurism and meta-narration in contemporary Japanese art. He has published several papers on the aesthetics of video games (Marges, 2017; Immersion, 2021; Romanesque, 2021) and Japanese literature (Mina Qiao, 2021). With Thibaut Vaillancourt, Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel, and Rui-Long Monico, he also organized the international symposium “Visual Contagions Through the Lens of New Media” at Geneva University in September 2021.

 

Thibaut Vaillancourt is doing a PhD between aesthetics (Paris Nanterre) and media studies (University of Konstanz). He is currently working on a conceptual translation between French postmodern thinkers (and their international influences) and the recent developments of media theory and intermediality. He has published several papers on different topics such as video games (Marges, 2017; Romanesques, 2021), memes and net art (Ligeia, 2020) and intermediality (Intermédialités, 2016). He also organized, in collaboration with Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel and Anthony Bekirov, the international symposium “Visual Contagions Through the Lens of New Media”, in 2021 at the University of Geneva.

Edoardo De Cobelli
The digital and animal turn: Immersive technologies as reenactment and embodiment

Recent developments in technology and the digital have changed our relationship with our bodies and the external world. Reflections around post-humanism are inevitably intertwined with these transformations, as are questions about how our relationship with ourselves, the environment and the non-human may evolve in the near future.

In anti-speciesist thinking, the digital introduces new elements of measurement and awareness, and is capable of changing the terms of the confrontation that inevitably starts from an anthropocentric assumption. How does this shift change the anthropocentric perspective? 3D technology and Augmented Reality are two examples of how the mutation of a perceptual language into something more – e.g. into a language that from perceptual becomes performative – can provide enriching ground on which to build a new sensibility.

My theoretical and curatorial research addresses the capacities of these technologies to modify the profound relationship we have with the animal universe, starting from the artistic field. Digital technologies extend the horizons of interaction and operability of art in two directions: immersive technology as reenactement; immersive technology as reversal and embodiment. The former allows us to understand, like cinema, documentary, and other expressive media, what man is and has been from a perspective both contemporary and historical. A parallel can be made, 50 years later, with the experimental cinema of Yervant Gianikian and Cristina Ricci Lucchi. If the artists took the found footage of a pro-fascist documentary filmmaker like Luca Comerio to emphasize the gaze of the white hunter (see Dal Polo All’Equatore) through slowing down and physically editing the film, the immersive reenactement of a hunting event allows the hunter’s gaze (whether on man or animal) to be experienced firsthand, through a live-action experience. At the end of June 2023, I am promoting a project created with artist Giovanna Repetto in the FAI gardens of Palazzo Moroni (BG), around a roccolo. The roccolo is a hunting post – now banned – that allowed a large number of birds to be captured with a trap call. The artist will reenact the presence of migratory birds with the use of holograms and, through the use of an app, the presence of hunters with Augmented Reality.

Immersive technology as a reversal and embodiment, differently, stimulates and in a sense forces the viewer to adopt non-human perspectives in an attempt to understand something other than ourselves through senses and psychomotor involvement. In 2021 I created a project in collaboration with the Mattatoio in Rome, presented in Verona with Spazio Volta, that re-imagines the context of a 2019 experiment that took place in Russia, where cattle were raised in virtual reality. Users could watch through 3D visors what they imagined a bovine might see in an artificially controlled environment, adopting an animal’s point of view. Digital technologies offer not only new capabilities for investigating the real, but a changed relationship between the body and the environment, the body and the archive, the body and the Other, such as the animal. The shift of the speculative narrative from a subject-object perspective to a 360-degree environment reconfigures the role of the viewer, and it is this performativity that allows for the stimulation of a new form of awareness, which goes hand in hand with the physicality of the virtual to overcome the physical limits of the human body as a sensory prosthesis.

 

Edoardo De Cobelli (Bergamo, Italy, 1992) is a researcher and curator. After a first degree in Economics at the Catholic University of Milan, he studied art history at the University of Florence, the Sorbonne University in Paris and the Alma Mater Studiorum in Bologna, where he earned a double degree in Visual Arts. He curates contemporary art exhibitions with a particular focus on new technologies and the relationship we have with the animal world. From 2019 to 2020 he took care of production for Converso Foundation and since 2020 he is the artistic director of Spazio Volta, a non-profit exhibition space and editorial platform situated in a XIII century roman fountain. He wrote for Arte e Critica, Exibart, Art Press and FlashArt as well as for academic journals and catalogues, such as Eva vs Eva – Villa d’Este.

Kenny Youngrok Kim
Falling

“Falling” is a dream sequence of me physically falling endlessly. One dream that resonates with me takes place on a train, elevated on a bridge, and a sudden gravitational force pulls me down. The train begins to trail off the tracks and eventually falls off a bridge.

In parallel, I was interested in connecting this feeling of falling with the notion of falling asleep. In my experience with insomnia, I recall counting every stipple in my popcorn ceiling to convince myself to fall asleep. The painful and dreadful wanting to be asleep was another experience I aimed to include, oscillating between the dream and reality. I relied on point clouds to paint this elusive nature of dreams while depicting the scene in virtual reality. I brought the user visually from the front, bottom, and top of my bedroom, fixed on my bed, locking the perspective to the movement of the VR headset. I did not give any agency to the user to look around the room, and the only perspective one had was in the direction of the camera. This view gave me a feeling of being out of place to add another depth to the forced immersion I aimed to convey.

I began to explore how to convey this feeling of anxious, oppressive, and even passive state through sounds. First, there were the sounds of outer space, such as the sound of Saturn, to the score music by Hans Zimmer for films such as Interstellar and Dune, which was effective in conveying fright, uneasiness, and confusion. Next, the examples led me to the sounds of Shepard Tone, which filmmakers often used during scenes of violence or intensity to make one more frightened. As the project dealt with many physical movements and confusion in experiencing the film, I realized the piece could cause nausea or motion sickness during the gameplay. Therefore, I added a warning at the beginning to make sure the user is aware before starting the experience. In addition, this project should be experienced sitting, ensuring safety if the participant feels unsafe or uneasy.

Many moments in dreams can feel insignificant; however, dreams are a set of structured narratives depicting one’s current state of emotions. The repeating dreams of falling become almost like a déjà vu, and there is no specific control over what to dream, let alone how to react in a dream.

Instead, dreams are the ultimate immersive experience, and this piece aims to recreate a part of that immersion. The only action we are allowed is to comprehend what we see and think. I sought to stay true to this experience by removing any hand interaction, only allowing the eyes and the movement of my head to interact in the virtual reality. Ultimately, the subtraction in the experience added a layer of confusion to provoke a sense of no control and helplessness. And this inability to fight gravity or lethargy is what I can convey through the use of virtual reality, a medium that fights to be progressively more transparent and blurs what actual and virtual reality is.

 

Project Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UAruu2V4_Q

Kenny Youngrok Kim is an interaction designer and technical artist working at the intersection of design and computer science. He is currently studying at Harvard Graduate School of Design, working the medium of XR while integrating emerging technologies to enhance human interactions and experiences in the digital and physical.

research: conference

Immersed in the work

From the environment to virtual reality

In recent years, there has been a trend for every experience to be 'immersive'. So suggests at least the rhetoric of communication and marketing, which promises us immersions of various kinds in order to make us feel physically enveloped in an interactive and multisensory environment. Thus we speak of immersive environments, immersive cinemas and videos, immersive exhibitions and installations.

Although the term 'immersion' in reference to artistic practices has only appeared since the 1990s in relation to technologies such as virtual reality, some researchers have attempted to reconstruct a possible genealogy of these environments well before that date. The immersive aesthetic experience would thus in fact be traceable in different periods, starting even from cave paintings in the Palaeolithic era, then reappearing in Pompeian painting, in the various strategies of trompe l'œil, in the Renaissance 'camera picta', in Baroque illusionistic ceilings, and so up to contemporary multimedia installations.

The first decades of the 20th century, furthermore, represent one of the most significant moments for understanding the relationship between art and immersion, when the avant-garde artists of the time experimented with the first environmental installations, defined by Germano Celant as “wall boxes on a human scale" in the catalogue of his famous exhibition Ambiente/Arte. From Futurism to Body Art (Venice, 1976).

Like the environment, the exhibition itself as an immersive device plays a significant role throughout the 20th century, as is evident in the close relationship between exhibition staging, design, architecture and the arts. Immersivity calls into question the role of the spectator, already reconfigured by experiences such as performance art. In this sense, the latest generation of immersive technologies and theories on the environmentalisation of images propose a rethinking of installation as image and image as installation, within a debate between art history and theory on the one hand and media and visual studies on the other.

13 June
16 June 2022

13th of June: Pirelli HangarBicocca; 14th-15th-16th of June: University of Milan

Sala Napoleonica

Via Sant'Antonio 12, Milan

organized by

Giovanna Amadasi
Giulia Avanza
Arianna Bertolo
Roberto Paolo Malaspina
Elisabetta Modena
Andrea Pinotti
Sofia Pirandello
Roberta Tenconi
Immersed in the work
From the environment to virtual reality
13th of June: Pirelli HangarBicocca; 14th-15th-16th of June: University of Milan
Sala Napoleonica
Via Sant'Antonio 12, Milan
20220613
20220616