Hot on the heels of Ryan Gander’s immersive performance art, Sam and I went to Playstation’s Punchdrunk collaboration “…and darkness descended” last night and I have to say it was stunning stuff.
The collaboration was to promote the release of their forthcoming blockbuster, Resistance 3. Set beneath Waterloo’s railway arches, you enter an immersive theatrical world where the idea of the game is brought to life. It operates as a prequel where you take the role of one of the few remaining survivors of an apocalyptic event. In the game you are formed into cells of 9 survivors and you have to work together to get out “alive.”
The detail is amazing – the dank smell which changes and seems to worsen in every room, the manic guide who screams in your ear to “get down on the floor”, the flickering lights, the pitch black. Then there is the zombies grabbing at your clothes, (or are they just your comrades, you never quite know). Then we lose someone halfway through. Down to 8. And to make things worse, we “breach” security. The chase is one. This is truly terrifying as you sprint together blind in the darkness, up twisted metal stairs, through abandoned hospital beds amid screams, crashes and pools of “toxic” standing water. The panicked, paranoid and foreboding atmosphere is in equal parts terrifying and exhilarating - a real life horror experience that beats anything I’ve ever seen. Sam was in a right old state but I think he’s just about ok now. Could almost argue that it was too good…I was speaking to someone about it last night and they made point, how can a game live up to this? I don’t really think that’s the nub of it though..it’s not an either / or. Its real engrossing transmedia stuff which physically pulls you into another part of the story before the full version begins when R3 is released next week. I almost want to get a PS3 now.
A few of us went to see a really interesting exhibition last night so I thought I’d share a little review: Ryan Gander / Locked Room Scenario.
The premise is thus. You’re the detective in an empty fictional gallery. The room of the title (LRS) refers to the gallery space where a group exhibition, “Field of Meaning”, was in the process of being installed. But the installation seems to have been abandoned, and none of the people you’d expect to find in an art gallery is anywhere to be seen, apart from 2 louche art shcoolers slouching on the stairs as you enter . As detective in the mystery, your job is to find out what has happened: what’s behind the “locked room scenario”?. The insinuation is that a death has occurred and you are given a long list of suspects and oblique clues to unlock the mystery as you make your way round the “gallery.”
As you walk around the periphery of the sealed space, you are met with locked doors, frosted glass, shadowy silhouettes, ringing phones, flickering lights, intermittent music and an overwhelming sense of bafflement. Along your route you pick clues from the floor, on the wall, or handed them by a stranger in the street, or in our case, the pub. While most things aren’t clear, two things are. One, it’s a mystery with no obvious answer, and two, the sense or paranoia it evokes is seriously creepy. You never know who is in the show and who isn’t. And this feeling doesn’t leave when you do. It follows you to your next stop, literally!
Undoubtedly interesting, this approach isn’t new, not even to Gander. It has been most famously deployed in the art world by the theatre production company Punchdrunk. Notable for the way in which they break down the barriers between actor and audience and give the audience an individualised experience of the show.
Gander’s use of performance is interesting because of the way he probes “meaning” - the perennial question of contemporary art. Traditionally the power is with the artist – readings are often narrow and finite but with Gander, you are given more scope to make your own readings and have your own hazy version of events. That said, he still has the upper hand – as creator, he knows the answer to his own riddle (I think) and this could all be a giant joke on your behalf as you go crawling round corners and peering through cracks to find some meaning, to fill in the gaps, and to make some kind of story. But I guess this is the point, and it’s all very clever, and is probably a taste of the future in one form or another, not just for art and theatre but for brands too.
If you’re keen, it’s on until 23rd October – booking needed but only £4 per ticket.