“Liminality” is the theater of the mind that explores the in-between
So let’s just say it’s a theater of the mind. The 70-minute production is split into different segments, some of which are immersive soundscapes and audio performances, and others that are more guided meditations. These are interrupted by three short films that the public watches through VR headsets.
Majestic gongs and dreamlike sound waves herald an introspective performance suited to the imagination of every member of the audience. A narrator speaks to you through a guided visualization where you’re meant to find a field, trees, and your own childhood before you soar into ethereal realms. Please note: your mileage may vary. Whether exercise grants you enlightenment or a short nap depends on your own mental performance (my experience has come close to a nap). Either way, the segment, which ends with “Liminality,” is the most pedantic and least interesting part of the show.
It is more the fault of the scenario than the technical elements of “Liminalité”, which do not disappoint. The sounds are delicious and from another world; even the thunder and precipitation of a storm during an audio segment called “The Doldrums”, about a captain and crew stranded in the ocean, is rendered with such a sonic dimension that I have was surprised to find myself still perfectly dry and sheltered at the end of the scene. The lighting, from the changing hues of the room to the soft beams of Edison bulbs in the ultraviolet glow ceiling lights that gave the lettering on my T-shirt an iridescent nightclub glow, is spooky.
But it is the virtual reality-based segments that carry the most. The first virtual reality short, “Life-Giver”, created by Petter Lindblad and Alexander Rönnberg, follows a family on their way to catch the last transport ship off a dying post-apocalyptic Earth. The second, “Mind Palace”, written and directed by Carl Krause and Dominik Stockhausen, is a sensual and impressionistic examination of the end of a relationship. The latest virtual reality film is “Conscious Existence”, created by Marc Zimmerman in collaboration with MoFE. It is a sumptuously illustrated existential journey through terrestrial landscapes and the confines of space.
The vividness of the visuals, combined with the tactile vibrations of the virtual reality device (rendering of crashes and earthquakes) make it an experience that combines the immediacy of theater, the visual dialect of film and the technological rush of gaming. It all adds up to a surprisingly immersive world-building feat: you can observe a sky full of constellations above your head, or you can turn around to see the rubble of a shattered Earth spreading towards a horizon. (However, members of the audience who wear glasses, as well as those prone to vertigo, may find all this Matrix-esque exploration tiring and bewildering.)