Emily Eifler

May 2016

Nested is a mixed reality performance consisting of two interlaced components: a site specific performance captured with immersive video which the audience accessed via the distributed interface of their phones and a simultaneous live performance. The live and captured performances both took place in the same room, effectively nesting the space inside itself.

The performance was first done in May of 2016 when Emily was invited to give a talk at the Living Room Light Exchange, a monthly salon in the Bay Area which curates talks from artists working in new media forms.

Some of the factors considered when developing the piece include:

Performances which include both live artists and video often take similar form: The video half of the performance is shown larger than life size on a wall or screen. The artist performs in front of or beside the recorded image. When the two components are equally powerful the audience divides their attention between the two by looking back and forth, but if the live or recorded portions are unequal in grip the audience’s attention is drawn and often locked to one component over the other. To avoid these conventions in Nested the video component’s display surface was distributed allowing the audience to manually move and layer the virtual space.

The disadvantage of utilizing the audience’s own phones was confronting the culture and stigmas that surround the little pocket devices. Immersive media and phones are often picked with similar criticism: flagrant escapism. When a friend is looking at their phone during dinner we perceive their mind to have leaned through that glowing window to the land of elsewhere. Similarly phones curry no favor in live performance settings because in their unaddressed state they are a means of distancing the mind while the body remains present. When the audience is otherwise a sea of black that escape is especially highlighted. But phones are intimate objects. Even if asleep so as not to distract others from a live event, they have not left our sides. Assuming they don’t exist and have no effect on an assembled crowd is disregarding what an audience actually is today: a group of both humans and computers, usually paired one to one. Performance which includes these intimate devices they can reinforce and elaborate on the physical world performance instead of being a severing or interruptive means of distance.