ÖRJÄT

Tjärö, Sweden

A reflection on the dependency on technology, the potential of a transhumanist future, and the meaning of free will facing the urgency of environmental change.

ÖRJÄT

Based on the principle of an artistic LARP (Live Action Role Play) – a narrative game in which the players pursue their characters’ goals within a fictional setting presented in the real world. The scenario of ÖRJÄT was designed to prompt reflect on the dependency on technology, the potential of a transhumanist future, and the meaning of free will facing the urgency of environmental change. Developed the by three American and German artists Becket MWN, Carina Erdmann, and Anna Kindermann, and Swiss curator Bernard Vienat, these questions bring the participants to several negotiations staged in the setting of the island, before the final performance designed as a political meeting on one of the festival stages.

PLX Festival - ORJAT
Performance view - mind induction as part of ORJAT process

Live Action Role Play is a form of interactive fiction that merges object and subject in the narrative itself and allows the viewer to become an actor themselves. Content is thus not only transmitted as a picture or thought but conveyed as embodied knowledge and stored as a personal memory. The format of role play was previously known mainly from the forests of Scandinavia, in which fanatical gamers wanted to completely tear down the line between computer game and reality. Later Nordic Larp explored a broader and even therapeutic potential of the format. Today it might be one promising future for participatory art practice, since LARP is like a real-life laboratory for thought experiments in temporary realities.

Through a fictional scenario and gaming characters about twenty participants entered a mindset that allowed them to simulate travel through time. This live mind experiment took place in the frame of the PLX festival on the island of Tjarö in the Blekinge Archipelago, Sweden (UNESCO world heritage site), using the island as a bridge between fictional and physical experience. With the festival on site, the travellers merged into the vibrant party culture of 2018, as art and music performances provided a live soundtrack to the game.

ÖRJÄT is set in the future in 2810, when earth has become uninhabitable. The only surviving humans are the so-called Martians – transhumanists who believe in an optimized technoid future – and the more rooted Terrestrials, who worship the past. Both have fled the Earth’s surface for new habitats where they have built divergent civilizations: the Martians to Mars and the Terrestrials in a web of tunnel systems under the earth. Their only agreement was to let the Earth’s surface rest so that it can recover, but they are in sporadic contact, as the Martians still depend on the rare-earth minerals that the terrestrials hold underground. The Martians have invited the Terrestrials for a meeting on Tjärö to negotiate for these vital resources. They have found a way to hack into the minds of people living in the past: through Mind Inducement (MI), Martians and Terrestrials from 2810 are able to project their consciousness into the body and mind of a living person in 2018, before the collapse of the Earth’s biosphere. The trade meeting on Tjärö will be a first step for the two long-separated cultures.

This project was the fruit of a collaboration between art-werk, plain hearty fare and PLX Festival.

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