Virtual culture is not just changing the engagement with culture, it is also changing the role of audience members and their experience around the art.
The coronavirus forced us to watch in our homes rather than with strangers and some of the immediacy of live performance went missing. “It’s easy to forget that, in the theatre, each ticket buyer plays a role. The quality of our attention—silent or ecstatic, galled or bored … makes each in-person performance unrepeatable.” Some theatre productions try to bring some interaction into the digital – between actors and spectators, and among spectators. Awkward at first, it offers a way to avoid social estrangement and gives back an experience of interaction.
And it’s not only the performance itself, but the whole experience, including the important social side of it. “Perhaps there is enjoyment in rituals of getting ready, going for a meal or drink before or after, chance meetings with friends, or minute details, such as the smell of a favourite venue or even the irritating rustling of another performance goer’s snacks on the next row. Experience of performances involves all of these things and more; a ‘total’ experience (Gesamtkunstwerk) with forms of artistic performance as a focus point.” A nightclub found an innovative solution when it went online. In addition to its 3D interactive dancefloor, it included a virtual queue, where participants would wait to be let in; a bar where, for the price of a drink, participants could donate to charities; toilets, represented as a number of chatrooms hidden behind cubicle doors. It offered clubbers casual interaction and the club experience that exists around the dancefloor. Something to inspire traditional venues?
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