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The Reality Myth

Background Story ♯1

The seeds for the Reality Myth project were sown in September 2012 in Belgrade when representatives from 12 different countries gathered for a Youth in Action funded training in Sensory Labyrinth Theatre (SLT). The project was called Metamorfoza because the training program followed the stages of metamorphosis from embryo to butterfly. Conducted by Theatr Cynefin the training led to the performance of site specific theatre which had a profound effect on audiences – many of whom felt in some way that they themselves had undergone a kind of metamorphosis of consciousness. All partners in this project wanted more! They wanted to create a touring SLT production and agreed there and then that they would work together towards such an aim, under the banner of The Republic of the Imagination.

Story ♯2

The seeds of the Reality Myth project were sown in March 2012 when The Republic of the Imagination, an European network of organizations working with Context Oriented Theatre (COT)


collaborated with the Psychology and Neuroscience department of Bangor University in North Wales to create a Sensory Labyrinth Theatre performance called Cerebellium. Audiences were invited to the laboratory of Professor Kurtz, who had managed to reanimate a human brain in a vat and induce in that brain the appearance of a kind of reality. A personality had emerged from that relationship with the virtual reality, a person called Kevin. Audiences were asked to consider an ethical dilemma and come to a decision about how the research should proceed. Should Kevin be told that his reality was indeed just a fabrication made by stimulating the brain’s various regions associated with giving the appearance of a world ‘out there’? Before making a decision, they were invited one at a time to hear Professor Kurtz case – which was illustrated with a labyrinth of immersive sensory illusions presented by the Laboratory staff and which, by the end, left most of them quite unsure about the nature of their own reality.

Story ♯3 The seeds of the Reality Myth project were sown in October 2012 when Theatr Cynefin, the coordinating organization of The Republic of the Imagination, collaborated with nomadic Yurt builders ‘Spirits Intent’ to create a camp for young homeless people in Wales. The aim was to teach the young people how to make a yurt - a nomadic canvas and wood structure (a relatively cheap and comfortable home) and to make a film of the experience. The project was part of a wider project called ‘Project X’ which aims to build a home for an international itinerant Context Oriented Theatre company called The Republic of the Imagination. This unique venue will be a circle of interconnected yurts with a canvas covered zome structure covering the central space. It will house an international company of artists that will tour to communities, festivals and events performances and participative processes that promote creative citizenship.


Selection of Audience Feedback to Theatr Cynefin SLT performances “Space for noticing myself” “I feel purged – ready to start a new life – all existence up to now has been eradicated – ready to start anew in complete innocence as a child.” “…feel I am complete in some way.” “Nothing will be the same as before in my understanding of the world and my circumstances” “I can still feel the tears in my eyes,

Glossary Sensory Labyrinth Theatre (SLT) Created by Iwan Brioc, Artistic Director of Theatr Cynefin, as an applied theatre methodology inspired by Enrique Vargas’s ‘Poetics of the Senses’; SLT ramps up the inherent but suppressed sensitivity of human sensory perception and the suppressed capacity of luminosity inherent in everyday experience. Individual audience members journey alone through a darkened three-dimensional labyrinth and along the way encounter moments and meetings that provoke subconscious sensory memories (sensory portals) into which they are gently invited to fall. In accepting this invitation constructs such as time and space, me and you, the inner and the outer start to collapse. Framed for the audience as ‘theatre,’ this space also takes on the added dimensions of the aesthetic space – memory and imagination: so that consciousness and this conditioned process of construction we call ‘reality’ can become an observable phenomenon – observed by the ‘character’ of the traveller in the performance.

the beat of my heart, my sweaty hands and a wonderful and magic peaceful feeling … It was like a dream I will never forget… Each person is unique and different! I am unique and different, and we all exist… I exist! Thank you for this unique experience…Thank you for teaching me to value the most basic daily sensations…” “I learnt I have inside me emotions often alienated by daily routine. The traffic, rush, work, saving, struggling for material things, makes us lose the importance of what’s essential – the senses. It was no doubt an awakening and a remembrance of what really matters and how fragile we are” “What a relief to rediscover the source.”


In theatre terms this is an internalization of the Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt or distancing effect‘ - "which prevents the audience from losing itself passively and completely in the character created by the actor, and which consequently leads the audience to be a consciously critical observer”. The character the audience is challenged to observe in SLT (and in Context Oriented Theatre generally) is the ‘I’ that is experiencing rather than the ‘Me’ which is the culmination of those experiences. In Brecht’s Epic Theatre distancing is achieved because -"artist never acts as if there were a fourth wall besides the three surrounding him [...] The audience can no longer have the illusion of being the unseen spectator at an event which is really taking place." In SLT there is no fourth wall at all, the aesthetic space permeates all areas including the audience member’s internal mental state, so that the mind’s ‘I’ can no longer have the illusion of being the unseen spectator at an event which is taking place out there. Beckoned into the spotlight of prereflexive awareness a deep and profound insight into the participative nature of reality can emerge. One function of this technology is to support the emergence of ‘communitas’-the quality, first described by anthropologist Victor Turner, without which community is just a term to describe a group of people and not a feeling of common humanity with a shared meaning within that group of people. Sensory Labyrinth Theatre has the capacity to bring


about ‘communitas’, an unifying sense of meaning from having touched together the ineffable mystery of our being, undermining any cultural, religious or ethnic barriers that otherwise divide us. Context Oriented Theatre (COT) COT invites audiences, through a progression of theatre forms, to turn their attention towards the present moment – the sense of being alive here and now. It asks us to play with the possibility that ‘all there is, is this’ – the ‘this’ that is happening inwardly and outwardly at every moment. And further, to imagine that it is not happening to anyone – but just happening. This ‘play’ and the drama that unfolds therein is the material with which COT works. Through this process the aim is to move from behaviour that is conditioned by society and culture to creative action that arises from awareness and a state of being that is free from conditioning – giving birth to creative and responsive citizenship rather than conditioned and reactionary citizenship. How COT achieves this is by recognizing that theatre is an externalization of consciousness and that participating in different modes of theatre bring about different kinds of consciousness. The classical theatre represents consciousness where there is a clear separation between the observer and the observed, the audience and the play. Participative theatre, such as the Theatre of the Oppressed, where the audience intervene in the play in order to change it, bring about a reflective consciousness that becomes aware that in some way what the observer does and their attention stance creates the observed reality. In Immersive theatre such as Sensory Labyrinth Theatre there is no easy line that can be drawn between the audience and the players. The stage is everywhere including in the shared moment, so attention is distributed and the observer and the observed become one.


Creative Citizenship According to some quantum physicists there are three properties to the universe – matter, energy and meaning: and the way they interact is creation. How these properties manifest in the human is through mind, body and spirit each of which can be realized to their full creative capacity through mindfulness, embodiment and vocation. By practicing these as individuals in community we raise our awareness and through practising transcultural dialogue with this awareness we realize creative citizenship. What results is a feeling of community (or communitas), personal transformation and greater peace leading to greater awareness and so on again around the circle. The more we do this the more the society we co-create demonstrates justice, security and truth.  

Creative citizens are pro-active citizens who recognize that the 'misery of reality when confronted with the richness of possibilities it contains' is a product of our sense of separation. Writ large, by embodying mindfulness as a vocation, creative citizens transform society from the inside out by a reverse osmosis. In creating and participating in cultural works that destabilize the separation between the observer and the observed they make a radical and revolutionary impact on society at large. In this way The Republic of the Imagination is a movement of and for Creative Citizens. It is also through the practice of Context Oriented Theatre, a creative movement for awareness of the creative movement of awareness. The Yurt The Yurt, the wood and canvas tent used traditionally for thousands of years by the cultures of Central Asia from Turkey to Mongolia, gains its structural strength from a balance of inward and outward tension. A central wheel is supported by ribs that radiate outwards and are tied to the top of a surrounding trellis wall. At the top of the trellis a narrow band or collar is wrapped and its ends tied to the door. This contains the outward force and gives the structure a solidity which, when covered in felt and canvas creates a particular atmosphere conducive to Context Oriented Theatre practices and performance. One yurt will constitute a module in this project.


The Project Proposed

The Reality Myth is a project that will help establish The Republic of the Imagination network through enabling the mobility of artists between member organizations. This with the shared aim not only to produce Sensory Labyrinth Theatre performances together but also to build bespoke mobile spaces for SLT to occur. These spaces will be in a modular form imbued symbolically with the ethos of Context Oriented Theatre. Artists will initially meet and learn how to construct the modules and together develop a joint program of local activity that occurs in the completed module – this program will include the activity of building the module. These activities will feed into developing what are called Sensory Portals within the module. These modules, the sensory portals within them and the artists who have created them will then join together to tour a Sensory Labyrinth Theatre production initially to three different locations in Europe. The project will then aim to continue the tour on a self-subsistent basis continuing to grow the membership of the network, secure further hosting events and communities and add to the modular venue which the project will have initiated.


Project Theme The thematic focus of our work together which will frame the program’s development and implementation will be how arts, science, society and culture are currently relating to the idea of a concrete reality. Science, in particular quantum physics and neuroscience, have opened up huge new vistas of doubt about whether what we experience as reality has any substance outside the activity of our brain, including the sense of a self. The arts, meanwhile, is reflecting this through the explosion in more participative and postdramatic theatre forms; mixed media happenings in non-traditional venues such as flash mobs and more collaborative and less auteur approaches to artistic production. In general the arts today are more process than product orientated despite the ubiquity of commodification and are more likely to question our grasp on reality rather than impose an interpretation of the world than ten years ago. Society as a whole is in complete denial and is rabidly resistant to a paradigm shift that integrates the new un-reality. Politically, we see the old forms are defunct and dying and no new forms of governance are presenting themselves within the current worldview. On an individual level we can see increasing mental health problems and a movement towards mind training disciplines, such as Mindfulness, in order to be at peace with these new existential uncertainties in life. Culture is torn between acknowledging the new reality (the unreality of reality) and providing wallto-wall distraction with stultifying superficial entertainment and the bolt holes of virtual worlds in which young people are more and more immersed. This project explores how art, and in particular theatre, can influence culture in a way that changes the way we see the world not just at an intellectual level but at the pre-reflexive level of consciousness itself. Of course, this has happened before. To the left is what’s called the Ponzo illusion. The lines of perspective force our mind to interpret the 2 dimensional space as a representation of 3 dimensional space and therefore to see the black line on the right as longer than the one on the left when in fact they are the same size. It is difficult to 'undo' this mental capacity which itself was developed when painters started to use linear perspective in theatre scenography in Ancient Greece around 500BC and was later revived in art by Brunelleschi in Renaissance Florence. It might seem incredible that culture and science (how artists depict the world and how science make new discoveries) can actually change the way we perceive reality. Though we know the world is not flat we still perceive it so. We must employ our memory of the evidence, such as photographs of a spherical earth pictured from space and our imagination in applying that memory to our lived experience, to grasp this reality. And yet it is an abstraction, not a ‘reality’ we witness like stereo vision. So it is easy to discount the possibility that culture impacts consciousness itself. However, it has been shown that some animals have not developed stereo vision although they have two eyes. They have not developed the neurological capacity although they have the physical apparatus to provide the data that could be interpreted in this way.


Theatre, as the first human invention, being ontologically concomitant with the arising of a conscious self, might just be the apparatus that has the potential to provide the information we have yet to absorb into our consciousness. Just as Brunelleschi painted the reflection of a church in a mirror, rendering three dimensions in two for the first time; Context Oriented Theatre depicts our limited consciousness in the reflection of the five dimensions of theatre, unfolding a metaconsciousness within which the myth of reality is exposed.

Project Phases and Activities Phase 1 of the project involves partners locating and engaging the communities with whom they would like to deliver the local activities program. These can be any kinds of communities, but from the profile of the partners, will likely be young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is through these activities – a Context Oriented Theatre process, that most partners will source the match funding for the project. Instrumental also to this phase will be the securing of the locations and local support to mount the performances in Milan, Pula, Sarajevo and Belgrade during The Reality Myth Tour. Phase 2 will see two representatives from each organization meeting in Portugal for 10 days to learn how to construct and assemble the modules and to develop together the COT program of local activities. Key processes in the program will be tried and tested in these ten days. All partners to some extent have been exploring COT approaches and in particular Sensory Labyrinth Theatre over the last few years so this will not be a training but a sharing of best practice and formulation of the optimum short program to deliver to the specific communities with which we have engaged. Phase 3 sees the COT program delivered by the partners to the local communities engaged, from the building of the module to the development of the sensory portal. It is envisaged that this program will take a week to ten days to deliver and the partners must do so between June and the meeting in Milan in late August. Phase 4 brings all the modules together in Milan where they will be connected to form a Sensory Labyrinth Theatre performance, which will be premiered in Milan. Phase 5 sees the tour of this production in September to Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia. Phase 6 is a hypothetical phase which sees the production continue to tour to Sofia and Bucharest, but is dependent on ticket receipts at those locations subsidizing the whole tour, including salaries for the artists. If this is successful then we will seek to reprise the production the following spring, touring to other cities and communities in Europe. Phase 7 sees the partners come together in virtual space to Â

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• • •

Share materials for publication of a final report Create a marketing strategy Develop a self-subsistent program and tour for The Republic of the Imagination for Spring/Summer 2014

Timeframe 1

1 May 2013



20 – 30 May 2013

Porto, Portugal


June – Aug 2013



21 – 28 Aug 2013

Milan, Italy


Sep 2013

Pula, Croatia Sarajevo, Bosnia Belgrade, Serbia






Virtual Space


February - April

Virtual Space

Preparation Period Partners identify host community for local activities and for performance tour. 1st Meeting – Learning how to Build a Module Creating the Joint Program of Local activities Local Activities – Building a Module Delivering Joint Program of Local activities in Module Creating Sensory Portals in Module nd 2 Meeting – Modules converge and integrate into SLT production Premier of Joint SLT performance in Milan Performance tour Over 30 days the performance will tour from Milan to Pula to Sarajevo to Belgrade. The option to continue to Sofia and Bucharest will be dependent on advance booking receipts. Gather and engage interest in hosting a program and/or performance for summer 2014 Gather materials to compile a final report Use same materials to design marketing publication and strategy Implement marketing strategy and draft program for Spring/Summer tour of The Republic of the Imagination – Submit with final report.



Salaries   Co-­‐ordinator   Logistic  Support   Local  Program  delivery  


10,000.00 4,000.00   20,000.00  

Module  costs  


Meeting  (Portugal,  UK)   1st   Travel  16  x  300  18/diemx10x20   Subsistence    


2nd   Meeting  (Milan)  and  tour   Travel  18  x  300   Subsistence  18/diemx35x20   Artists  Salaries   Transport  





4,800.00 3,600.00  

5,400.00 12,600.00   20,000.00   5,000.00   1,600.00  

Notes: The subsistence costs are low because participants will be sleeping in the modules that they construct, as well as working in them. Travel costs are also low but with careful planning and advanced booking can be realized. Transport costs reflect the need to transport artists and modules across four countries during the tour. Each project partner will assemble a module and the materials for doing this are estimated at 3500 euro each. Any additional costs incurred by mounting the SLT performance will need to be met by the hosting communities and this will need to be made clear to them at Phase 1. The box office income from the performances, (estimated at €5000), are The Republic of the Imagination match funding for the project.


The Reality Myth  

A proposal to The Republic of the Imagination network for a touring Sensory Labyrinth Theatre project.