lookingGlass: A Digital Immersive Theatre and Gaming Experience

lookingGlass developed from a question NYC theatre company Mangeont asked itself late last September: Can we, given today’s social, political, economic, and ecological realities, responsibly maintain hope? Reading this back today, it strikes with different, but not dampened, significance. Taking Murray Bookchin’s phrase “Demand the impossible” as a guide, the aim of the project was always to explore the possibility of a “better world,” whatever that may mean. The process was to be one of public engagement, wherein the artists involved would all participate in a personal interview with company members, and subsequently create a piece of art responding to that connective, imaginative experience, which would then be incorporated into a staged show entitled The Future is Not a Dream. Though the performance dates for the theatre version were postponed, the project has been completely re-envisioned for the virtual world we currently inhabit. The resulting project, lookingGlass, is an online immersive gaming experience, built with Unity, that functions as a site for virtual interaction with recorded artwork, giving the audience-player agency in their participation, much as would be encouraged at a live interactive show. This, combined with (secret) live elements and web interaction push the bounds of what a video game can be, offering a potentially unique digital art experience presenting the work of a wide range of visual, audio, text, and mixed media artists. The interviews that are at the core of the process, held over the course of March and April, and the resulting artistic responses, bear witness to the reality each day has brought with it since the onset of the global pandemic. They mark out space for pain, but also for joy, for longing, and Yes For hope as well.