Immersionist Event Paradigm
To reintroduce biological coherence into our cultural life, we must not freeze audience, dancer, media, and ethos into separate academic or commercial disciplines. Dancing and celebrating must grow out of a reticulum of living traditions: potlatches, parties, polkas, blues sessions and underground nightclubs. One rather short and harried tradition, the technology-assisted ambient performance, is beginning to mature into a paradigm, a mnemonic blur of sock hops, discotheques, slam dances, house parties, raves, and trance dances. The Immersionist scene in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, contributed its own idealistic forms to such an emerging tradition, including four large warehouse events on the waterfront in the early 1990s (Cats Head I & II, The Flytrap and Organism). The first parties began as live rock events in recycled industrial spaces. They involved a large stage and sculptural installations along the perimeter. Eventually other strategies and systems flowed into the mix, ending with Organism's web jam.
The essential structure of Brooklyn's Immersionist events involved absorbing revellers into the belly of a living system. Cultural, biological, and electronic media engulfed both audience and performers. The object was not to isolate components of the dance for worship, analysis, or sales. Needless to say, commercial values and academic categories wither the spirit. The object was to integrate the senses and the disciplines, churning everything into a large, ecstatic being. Buttressed by the good will of a community of friends, and fueled by whispers of complete abandon, such events can re-wild and re-energize an urban milieu. Indeed, Brooklyn has been transformed.
But take note: In his dystopian novel, "Brave New World," Aldous Huxley warns of an artificially created religion. Participants pop a pill called "Soma" and enter an elaborate "Solidarity Service" in which a spirit is introduced electronically from above. It's quite an omen. All belief imposed upon us by managers, priests, and commercial club producers is a dreary prospect. It is a golden calf, a Disney spectacle. Supplication to a precise hierarchy of mechanisms is often substituted for mutual trust and sincere mental exploration. Running out to the nearest hilltop and howling at the moon has more spiritual potential than such exercises in crowd control and pocket change extraction.
It is of paramount importance that any immersive event be grounded in a living community, and built by consensual labor and imagination. Tasks may be divided up, but the spirit of collaboration must be nurtured throughout the entire process of planning, building, celebrating and clean-up. The simple ritual of a meeting, attended by as many participants as possible, maintains the vision and genuine solidarity of any project. Meetings are significant subroutines spinning within the larger process of ritual building. They should be conducted with humor and grace. And don't be stingy with the wine.
If the universe is truly vast, amazing and beautiful, then we must arrive at this truth freely, generation after generation, ritual after ritual. May we never finish the job of tweaking our systems of belief.
Secure a large room or outdoor area.
Set up sound systems, screens, and other media in a circle facing in towards a large dance zone.
Invite an audience into the center of the circle. Be sure to invite enough familiar people to seed conviviality and trust.
Performers, musicians, and media operators rhythmically interact with the audience and each other until everyone is as alive and inspired as possible.
A Convergence of Two Paradigms
ABOVE: Nerve Circle's immersionist performance in Bostion, "Evolution of the Grid," is blocked by the peops in blue in 1988. Ebon Fisher (left) is attempting to negotiate with the police. Fisher was evicted from his South Boston loft a week later. But he popped up again in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in time to help build an Immersionist scene with Kit Blake, Ethan Pettit, Eva Schicker, Stevie Allweiss, Robert Elmes, Terry Dineen, Jean Francois, Megan Raddant, Genia Gould, Kevin Pyle, Jessica Nissen, Fred Valentine, Yvette Helin, Sasha Sumner, Gene Pool, Minor Injury, Fake Shop, Lalalandia, the Outpost and dozens of others.
Other Immersionist tendencies in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: Immersionism.net
©2004 Ebon Fisher