«Blurring realities - making Mona el Gammals offline world «Rhizomat» a VR experience»
Each visitor finds a personal version of a story and breathes life into it through their imagination when visiting Mona el Gammal’s Narrative Spaces, which are filled and charged with stories and information. Texts, objects, smells, sounds and lighting moods reveal a story that viewers can process individually. They don’t observe reality with detachedness, but put the fragments of the immersive story together themselves.
Blurring realities – Making Mona el Gammals offline world «Rhizomat» a VR experience
In last autumn we produced the Narrative Space «Rhizomat», a work by the young Berlin artist Mona el Gammal, in the context of the program «Immersion» at Berliner Festspiele. «Rhizomat» was a large scale, site-specific and environmental work that was installed in a former telecommunication office of the GDR in Berlin Friedrichshain.
You can see, there are no people at all. No audience, no actors. So what you basically do, is entering this huge building alone and follow the narrative traces of the IFM (Institut für Methode), a huge enterprise that took over the political control in a dystopian future. An administrative IFM voice, that you can only hear through speakers in the rooms, guides and informs you about the situation you’re in. After a few minutes the light breaks down, the electronical supply has crashed. The situation seems chaotic and out of control. Through a small ventilating door that stands open you discover a new world. Behind the door you enter the world of the «Rhizomat», an underground guerilla group that fights the totalitarian IFM regime…:
You see, this large scale installation work by Mona el Gammal brings you into full contact with the artistic work. You step into the world that the artist created, you see no outside, no reality. El Gammal aims to bring you into a situation where you don’t distinguish between real or not real, past or future. She reduces the world to your individual view and your individual action.
For artworks like these, I would like to introduce you the term Narrative Space. Some of you might know similar works from the past, e.g. by: Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller: «Dark Pool», 1995., Signa, Punchdrunk, Rimini Protokoll: «Situation Rooms», 2013. So, why do I call these artworks a Narrative Space?
The rooms of Mona El Gammal are freely accessible to the visitor, they can be visited like an exhibition. Nonetheless, the there is constant monitoring and admonishment, if for example pictures are taken. The visitors self-chosen path through the rooms is lightly manipulated and controlled through sound and light effects. Behind the scenes a three person team sits in a control room that precisely controls all seemingly random events such as radio announcement and telephone calls. Even though there are no actors, an entire series of narrative elements is performed, which may be an indication that this is a performance after all – a «theater of objects» to quote Cleas Oldenburgs concept. Narrative Spaces orchestrate secrets. They attest to dramatic events, of which we can only see the imprint they left behind on the room, their legacy speaks to us. Narrative Spaces can be compared to archeological digs – instigated excavations.
The so called «reality» becomes multi-layered, partly even blurry. One can not be sure what is part of the work and what not. Where is the beginning of the artwork, where does it end?
This very space-based and point-of-view-orientated artwork that you physically enter seemed like a wonderful model for a VR experience to us and arte. We decided to coproduce a VR version of el Gammals work which is now in the final cut and that will premier at the SXSW festival this spring. I give you a short insight into the process: (Film)