Meet the Makers: Polymorf
In this edition of Meet the Makers, Polymorf will be in conversation about the making of their award winning installation Symbiosis. Symbiosis is a performative, multi-user and multisensory VR installation in which the human body is redesigned. It allows every participant to embody a post-human or even nonhuman reality: a completely symbiotic human-animal or human-technologic relationship. Symbiosis uses VR as a theatrical and philosophical tool to design an embodied multi-sensory experience.
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Somewhere 200 years in the future, on the ruins of an inhospitable Anthropocene, after climate change has changed the world beyond recognition, Symbiosis takes place. This post-human biotope might be rich and teaming with new artificial or enhanced biochemical life: new genetically altered life forms, (chemical) robots, hybrid technologies, and/or autonomous intelligent systems. They are all sharing resources, habitats, bodies and information in an inclusive way on the premise of: Symbiosis.
Symbiosis is a performative, multiuser and multisensory VR installation in which the human body will be redesigned. It allows every participant to embody a post-human or even nonhuman reality: a completely symbiotic human-animal or human-technologic relationship. Dutch experience design collective POLYMORF investigates in a speculative way how a more symbiotic exchange of genetic, cultural and technological traits between people and other present or future living entities can increase or change the agency of all. How will such affect future coexistence, legal rights and relationships between humans and all other living entities on a physical, emotional and spiritual level?
Symbiosis uses VR as a theatrical and philosophical tool to design an embodied multi-sensory experience. Within Symbiosis, the visitor is both spectator and performer. The installation consists of a performative space that offers a multi-user VR experience. Each experience is describing a specific symbiotic human-animal or human-technologic relationship. By choosing one of the stories, the visitor selects a character and role in the overall story world. All participants play a different symbiotic role in each other’s individual lives and all characters come together at the end of the experience to join in a shared food experience. Within the performance, the physical body of the visitor is used as a muscle to control his/her speculative virtual body. Each experience will come with a uniquely designed soft robotic wearable enabling various haptic bodily interactions manipulations and interactions.
The individual VR experiences build towards a collective eating ritual, sharing virtual and real foods, and the virtual body as food. For this, a series of specially designed snacks will infuse the virtual food with unexpected taste sensations.The all-vegetarian snacks are designed by Dutch Michelin-starred restaurant Karpendonkse Hoeve master chefs. Symbiosis is inspired by Donna Haraway’s book Staying With The Trouble and The Camille Stories: Children of Compost making physically tangible posthuman body architectures within a post humanistic social context, questioning current Humanistic, Anthropocentric and Liberal beliefs. Check for more info at: www.symbiosis.show
Interdisciplinary Dutch experience design collective Polymorf designs by any media necessary to create speculative design and multi sensory experiences using cutting-edge technologies. As such, Polymorf acts as an innovative pipeline across industries by creating strategies for prototyping the future. Their ground-breaking work engages audiences by creating fully embodied immersive experiences. This is reflected in their body of work, which consists of VR experiences, theatrical performances and installation pieces. Their research project Sense of Smell and installation piece, Famous Deaths explores the possibilities of scent for storytelling, strategic communication and media design. Famous Deaths won the 2015 Art & Olfaction Award for experimental scent and was selected for the MIT Canon Moments of Innovation and the IDFA Doclab Interactive Documentary Canon. Symbiosis won the IDFA Doclab 2021 Special jury award for best creative technology in the immersive non-fiction category. By directly influencing the affective response, Polymorf incorporates visceral meaning in their designs to reflect on the now, the (post-) human condition and the relationships between humans and technology. Polymorf is: Marcel van Brakel, Mark Meeuwenoord en Peter Boonstra.
Marcel van Brakel is a founder and lead designer at Polymorf, an interdisciplinary Dutch experience design collective. He also works as an independent artist, writer, librettist, and film and theatre director. His critical projects and artistic research on immersive storytelling and embodiment often incorporate emerging technologies, multisensory design, and performativity. His body of work reflects on the now, the (post)human condition, and the shifting relationships between humans, technology and ecology, and ranges from interactive performances, music theatre, operas, VR experiences, speculative designs, brain-hacking projects, multisensory art installations, and interactive art installations. Marcel is fellow of the Sundance Institute, New frontiers story LAB, and a senior lecturer of immersive storytelling, transmedia storytelling, speculative design, and performativity at the Avans University for Applied Sciences in Breda.
Mark Meeuwenoord, a member of Polymorf, is a media artist and generalist whose practice shifts between creative coding, sound design, multisensory design, social design, robotics, artistic research, music, and engineering. His work incorporates as much critical philosophical thinking as everyday trivialities and practical solutions concerning the human and non-human condition.Mark is a senior lecturer and fellow researcher for Robotics and Sensoring at the AvansUniversity for Applied Sciences in Breda, the Netherlands. His work has won several awards, such as the Art & Olfaction Award for Experimental Scent and the Sheffield Doc/Fest Alternate Realities Audience Award.
This session is a part of Meet the Makers, which aims to facilitate meetings and conversations between academic researchers and students, and makers – such as artists, curators, dramaturges, designers, or other creative practitioners and professionals within the wider field of arts and culture.