This essay concerns a critical evaluation of liminality within performances, focusing on ‘Blast Theory’ and their exploration of gaming

which exists between reality and virtual worlds. Linking these performances and there relation to liminality to other virtual worlds which are becoming more prominent in society due to technological development. Liminality comes from the latin word ‘limen’ meaning ‘threshold’, this implies a shift of movement to cross from one place to the next. Liminality was first discussed by Arnold Van Gennep (1909) in his works regarding ‘Rites of Passage’, which draw focus to life‘s transitions. Liminality being the term used to describe the threshold of these life changes, such as marriage or puberty. These ’rites of passage’ were further broken down into three stages ‘1.Seperation (the initial stripping of social status, pre-liminal.) 2. Liminal Period (the transition, liminal.) 3. Reassimilation (the point where the new status is given, post-liminal.)’ (http://www.liminality.org/about/whatisliminality/) These three stages have become points of reference later on in the essay when highlighting liminality within performance. Theories of liminality were later expanded by Victor Turner ‘(liminality is) between successive participations in social milieu’ (Turner: 1974:52 http://business.nmsu.edu/~dboje/theatrics/7/victor_turner.htm) highlighting presence of liminality in everyday life. Dream states, subconscious thoughts and passing places such as hotels, airports, and streets can all be highlighted as liminal places in which people pass through in order to reach their destination. He also coined the term ‘liminoid’ to highlight recreational spaces such as football stadiums, halls and theatres. Modern technologies however have blended these states, meaning that geographical place is much less important, people can connect despite distance. It has been suggested by Shields (2000) that liminal zones share similar characteristics to virtual space. Although the internet is not a physical space it is still classed as a liminal space between participants. In accordance with Leary (1994)
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browsing the internet provides a ‘psychedelic’ experience which is classed as a ‘rite of passage’ in terms of consciousness. Therefore the shifting of mental states provides elements of liminality which are aroused by engagement with the internet. Through the development of internet pages such as ’Facebook’ and ’Myspace’ participants are able to develop and portray an avatar of themselves whilst textually publicizing heightened moments of experience. Meadows (2008) suggests ‘an avatar is a social creature, dancing on the border between fact and fiction’, already hinting towards ‘betwixt and between’ elements, this development is rarely complete. The user begins with a blank canvas and develops themselves personally, updating the webpage regularly; facebook becomes a liminal account of personal life, following personal life stages through photography and updates. Users who engage with these sites can also be seen as ’Cyborgs’, the technological portrayal becomes an extension of oneself. Cyborgs are as Donna Harraway (1991) suggests ‘floating signifiers’ which means they can never be signified in a semiotic sense, the liminal phase is never complete within the virtual world. This form of liminality arises questions in regards to what is natural and what is technological, a cyborg being a mix of the two. A cyborg is neither completely technological nor completely human. Performance artists such as Stelarc and Orlan have explored this notion by enhancing themselves using technology, therefore placing themselves within a liminal phase. When Orlan began her reincarnation performances in 1990, she was entering herself into liminality, transforming herself through a series of operations she was neither complete nor in-complete but somewhere in-between. Virtual realities provide play between worlds, between the virtual and the real. The entering into the virtual world requires a shifting of mental states in order to accept the new conventions. Therefore the player is required to be ’betwixt and between’ the virtual and the real adhering to new rules, semiotics and conventions. Turnbull highlights ‘the liminal state is an ‘other’ condition of being that is coexistent with the state of being of which we are normally conscious (the material state of being susceptible to rational awareness and sensory perception)." (http://limen.mi2.hr/limen1-2001/toni_sant.html) Therefore the liminal state, when entering the virtual world coexists with the reality, constantly passing

through the circle to be present within the two. Research has lead me to suggest that whilst ‘players’ engage with internet and virtual gaming their mind is separate from the body, the physical being is present however the mind is engaged in ‘cyberspace’. These separate entities argued within theories of dualism by Descartes, appear unreliable as he later argued the possibilities of the pair uniting. However Baker (2008) suggests they are joined entities ‘The assumption for me is always that the body is the integral site of the mind, so the experience must take place within the body.’ He also goes on to suggest that virtuality can be accessed ‘through the imagination or dreaming body’ Others theories explored in relation to this topic include the separate body transformation discussed by Tomas (1991), who highlights that the body undertakes a separate transformation ‘post-organic’, whilst engaging with communication within the virtual world. “there are a number of similarities between the overall structure of rites of passages and cyberspace that suggest that the latter might be closely related to the former in a functional sense” (Tomas; 1991; http://limen.mi2.hr/limen1-2001/toni_sant.html) Therefore both mind and body are between the virtual and real. It could also be argued that occasionally the virtual world can be classed as a liminoid space. It does become a recreational meeting place in forms such as chat rooms in which social relationships occur and develop however the conversations between the two are always going to be liminal; as is the space between the relationship. Connections toward personal websites, which are in essence an addition or representation of oneself, are highlighted by Auge (1995) expressing the connection between identity and place as relating to the liminoid. However viewing someone else’s site does not provide that identity link so therefore would that action be liminal? The development of online relationships, is also something that has developed alongside technology, the internet provides opportunity for people to portray another part of themselves, explore fantasies and meet new people, who they perhaps might never meet in reality. The virtual ‘cyber-rape’ performed by Mr Bungle (2004) highlights how interwoven the virtual and reality is becoming. Appearing on Lambda Moo Mr Bungle virtually hacked into
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his victims account, using his clown avatar to portray sexual acts. This happening was said to affect the victim’s reality, as it affected her psyche causing her physical violation. Cyber-rape is a virtual kind of bullying. However in order to be immersed completely within the technological world you need to cross a threshold. The notion of ‘cyber-rape’ and the victims feelings constituting this highlight that all aspects of self are present within the virtual world. The ‘Liminal magic circle’ highlighted by Johan Huizinaga forms the threshold into the virtual world, it is this threshold that provides the liminal space. By entering the ‘Liminal magic circle’ the user is accepting the new cultural forms, Victor Turner calls this crossing the ‘liminal moment’. “The fact that the magic circle is just that - a circle - is an important feature of this concept as a closed circle the place it circumscribes is enclosed and separate from the real world” (Salen and Zimmerman: 2004 Quoted in Taylor: 2006: 151) Therefore crossing into this circle provides a separate world, separate from reality in which rules are different. This persistent access to the virtual world is becoming more and more evident as technology advances, with mobile media development it is normal for people to be between states (mobile phones, laptops, gaming.) existing between the virtual and reality worlds and challenging perceptions in regards to space. Mobile phones now with developed technology (3G) allow users to access the internet whilst ’en route’. In addition, whilst engaged within conversation, draw the unwitting engagement of other people, bringing them into the liminal space. ‘WiFi’ hotspots are also becoming more prominent; reality and the virtual are becoming more and more interwoven. Satellite navigation also provides technology that senses its surroundings which has become useful within some of the performance discussed further in this essay. Technology is developing fast, and the more advanced it becomes the more real these gaming experiences become. The development of technology however brings me to pervasive gaming in which existence in a liminal nature exists as a theme in several forms. Pervasive gaming is liminal by nature, It exists “in everyday, real environments, with players ordinary, everyday tools and often utilizes mobile media and internet technologies in the course of game play” (McGonigal:2000,5)(Quoted from

http://blogs.arts.unimelb.edu.au/refractory/2006/07/04/blending-the-virtual-and-physicalnarratives-mobile-

future-scott-ruston/) Pervasive Gaming expands gaming into the physical world, providing liminality between the place of living and the place of play. These thoughts can be expanded further with modern technology such as the ‘Nintendo Wii’ in which participants physically participate to control the actions of their on screen avatars. Pervasive gaming however unlike ordinary virtual gaming is not completely immersive; participants need to be aware of both the virtual and the physical as they are present within the two. Various mobile games all highlight similar elements of liminality, including ‘Botfighters (2001), developed in Sweden by company ‘It’s Alive’. ‘Botfighters’ highlights similar attributes to that of the ones explored by Blast Theory, in which the virtual world is layered on top of the reality. ‘Botfighters’ allow opportunity for mobile participants to become active within the virtual world as and when they acquire. The mobile phone provides the portal into this virtual world and also becomes the weapon needed in order to eliminate other users. Before entering this space players are stripped of their status (pre liminal) and provided opportunity to create ‘a warrior’ selecting various amour, weaponry and ammunition (liminal). Once this warrior is created the avatar is able to be viewed by other people playing the game (post liminal). Imaginary items are also placed within the context, players receive hints concerned with the locations of help such as first-aid kits and extra ammunition further merging the two worlds together. Liminal spaces also exist between the two mobile phones, the network that joins the two together forms a liminal moment when Botfighter A shoots Botfighter B, the text is sent into a liminal space which is between both players. Blast Theory’s ‘Uncle Roy All Around You (2003)’ develops these notions, the street players (audience members) are stripped of their possessions (pre-liminal), given a handheld computer, (liminal) and placed into an online virtual city (post-liminal) which correlates to the actual city they are physically in. Audience members are in a liminal zone neither within reality nor the virtual world, ’betwixt and between’. This place could be highlighted as the ‘third place’ which Henri Lefebvre (2007) relates to as a mixture of real and imagined space. The aim of this pervasive game is to find ‘Uncle Roy’, using the online players for guidance and advice. In order to gain the full experience of this pervasive game audience members must pass through
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the ‘Liminal magic circle’ and be fully emerged in both the reality and the non-reality worlds. Players are present both in the virtual and real worlds ‘The virtual is imagined as a ‘space’ between participants, a computer- generated common-ground which is neither actual in its location or co-ordinates.’ (Shields: http://virtualsociety.sbs.ox.ac.uk/text/events/pvshields.htm) The fictional and real experiences also become a blur, the spectators are both in their own body and the avatar’s body within the virtual space, shifting mental states continuously to be present within the two therefore constantly passing through the liminal state. Audience involvement blurs the boundaries between performer and spectator, the spectator becomes a performer within the piece as they are searching for Uncle Roy therefore making distinctions between the two unclear. Members of the public are also brought into this liminal state unwittingly, as street players interact with the public in search of ‘Uncle Roy’, it is not possible to define who is playing the game and who is just following their desire lines (easiest route desired by oneself) within reality. The hand held computer provides a world which only exists within a computer chip, in which a projection of themselves in the form of an avatar, an additional part of the self, exists. Throughout the performance players are also required to cross liminal boundaries by entering a limousine and an office. These thresholds being crossed as players enter the office space and the limousine from the outside world. In addition to this performance Blast Theories ‘Can You See Me Now?’ which uses chase as form. This performance takes place between the real world and the virtual. Within this performance absence and presence become evident as online players and street players are both present and absent within the spaces. Players are asked to recall on past memories of people they have not seen for a while again highlighting the absence and presence within this performance. Blast Theories works also blur the boundaries between gaming and experience, as audience are receiving physical experiences whilst looking for Uncle Roy (the game), I could argue that it develops from being just a game to a real experience which is evident within between worlds simultaneously. Other mediatized forms of performance also portray elements of liminality in there uses of technology as integral to performance. ‘Doors of Serenity’ by Chameleons 5 although not concerned with pervasive gaming takes place in a liminoid

space (theatre) but uses digital media as a back-drop for the theatre action. This digital video provides a liminal space which exists between the live performance and the digital one which both co-exist within the same time and space. Although the projection appears present within real time, it exists as a representation within a computer. Peggy Phelan (1993) states that performance ‘cannot be saved, recorded, documented or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representations’. (pp146) the phenomenology concerned with representation therefore provides a liminal space in regards to playing this video. The digital media used within this performance becomes relevant to the present time and place despite it being a representation. It is never complete always in development but never in the reality always within the virtual. ‘This sense of in-between-ness – a liminal space operating between the screen images and live performers- is often the essential kernel, what one might even call the “metatext” of digital theatre production… always in the becoming but never realised’ (Dixon: 2007:pp337) To conclude liminality has been a challenging subject for me, in which I became interested in highlighting the ways in which the internet related to this notion. As to what space the internet actually is I am still decisive, although it leans more toward liminal tendencies because of the requirement of a constant liminal state of mind to constantly switch between the two (virtual and reality) particularly in pervasive gaming where the action is prominent in both worlds, it is considered as a non-place. It also lends itself to recreational forms suggesting the space is liminoid. Liminality discourse is still in development which, only within the last twenty years has been discussed in coherence with technological media. Blast Theories performances have provided suitable examples of various forms of liminality as discussed throughout the body of this essay. Liminality within performance has provided opportunity to explore untraditional spatial conventions challenging the theatrical notion of space.

Bibliography of Resources Books Carr, D (2005) Computer Games: Text, Narrative and Play (Cambridge: Polity)
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Causey, M (2006) Theatre and Performance in digital culture from simulation to embeddedness (Routledge: London) Dixon, S, (2007) Digital Performance: A History of New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Installation, (The MIT Press, pp 337) Hill, L & Paris, H (2006) Performance and Place (Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke) Kaye, N (2000) Site-Specific Art: Performance, Place and Documentation (Routledge: London) Kerr, A (2006) The Business and Culture of Digital Games and Play (Sage: London) Phelan, P, (1993) Unmarked: The Politics of Perfomance (London: Routledge) Taylor, T (2006) Play Between Words: exploring online game culture (MIT: Cambridge, Massachusetts) Journals Collins, D (ed) ( 2008) Performance Arts and Digital Media Vol 4.2&3 (4edge Ltd: Great Britain) Haraway, D (1991). "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century" in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women : The Reinvention of Nature. (New York: Routledge.) Websites http://libarts.wsu.edu/philo/faculty-staff/holbrook/descartes-on-mind-body.html December 2009] [Accessed online: 13th

http://journals.sfu.ca/loading/index.php/loading/article/viewFile/11/5 [Accessed online: 13th December 2009] http://naute.wordpress.com/2009/02/23/liminal-spaces-between-digital-and-analog/ [Accessed online: 13th December 2009] http://virtualsociety.sbs.ox.ac.uk/text/events/pvshields.htm [Accessed online: 10th December 2009] http://wi.hexagram.ca/1_1_html/1_1_pdf/wi.1.1.alison.harvey.pdf [Accessed online: 10th December 2009] http://limen.mi2.hr/limen1-2001/toni_sant.html [Accessed online: 10th December 2009] http://libarts.wsu.edu/philo/faculty-staff/holbrook/descartes-on-mind-body.html December 2009] http://people.brunel.ac.uk/bst/1no1/suebroadhurst.htm [Accessed online: 1st

[Accessed online: 25th November 2009]

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