In order to evaluate the effectiveness and to gain critical feedback of ‘iMorphia’ the prototype performance system, fourteen performers took part in a series of workshops which were carried out between the 14th and 18th April 2014 in the Mixed Reality Lab at Nottingham University.
One of the key observations was that content effects performative behaviour. This was originally posed as a research question in October 2013:
“Can the projected illusion affect the actor such that they feel embodied by the characteristics of the virtual character? ”
An interesting observation was the powerful and often liberating effect of changing the gender of male and female participants, producing comments such as “I feel quite powerful like this” (f->m), “I feel more sensual” (m->f).
All participants when in opposite gender expressed awareness of stereotypes, males not wanting to behave in what they perceived as a stereotypical fashion towards the female character, whilst females in male character seemed to relish the idea of playing with male stereotypes. These reactions reflect a contemporary post feminism society where the act of stereotyping females has strong political issues. A number of males reported how they felt that they had to respect the female character as if it had an independent life.
One participant likened the effect of changing gender to the medieval ‘Festival of Fools’, where putting on clothes of the opposite gender is a foolish thing to do and gives permission to play the fool and to break rules, which was once regarded as a powerful and liberating thing to be able to do. This sentiment was echoed by a number of participants, that the system gave you freedom and permission to be other, other than ones normal everyday self and removed from people’s expectations of how one is supposed to behave.
In summary the key observations resulting from the workshops were:
i) The effectiveness of body projection in creating an embodied character that is sufficiently convincing and effective in creating a suspension of disbelief in both performer and audience.
ii) How system artefacts such as lag and glitches from tracking errors were exploited by performers to explore notions of the double and the uncanny.
iii) The affective response of the performer when in character compared to the objective response when viewing the projection as an audience member.
The video below contains short extracts from the four hours of recorded video, with text overlays of comments by the performers.