July 2021

Ju Row Farr and Susan Ploetz: 2097: We Made Ourselves Over and PSY-SOMA-TEK

Blend&Bleed: On Transreality and Pervasive Play

Ju Row Farr presented “2097: We Made Ourselves Over,” a science-fiction project that took participants on a journey into an imagined future. Inspired by the respective histories of communities in Aarhus, Denmark, and Hull, England, the artists’ group Blast Theory worked with residents to create change in their cities, using everything from shipping containers to cryptocurrencies, while drawing on the work of futurologists, technologists, and climate scientists. The work could be experienced through an interactive app, live immersive experiences, and five sci-fi films that were shot on location across the two cities, featuring local casts. The talk is followed by a conversation with Ju Row Farr and Susan Ploetz.

In the role-play workshop by Susan Ploetz, participants created characters to explore a somatic telepathy exercise inside the fictional framing of a speculative institution called PSY-SOMA-TEK. Founded in a time of crisis, the institute seeks to create sustainable psychosomatic technologies to see into the past and future, to communicate and connect across distances, to decentralize knowledge, and to extend powers to those in need when the techno-suprastructures of the old order have fallen apart.

Susan Ploetz, PSY-SOMA-TEK, 2021. Drawings produced during a workshop by Carina Erdmann, Mikkel Rorbo, Nick Koppenhagen, Pablo Esbert Lilienfeld, and Gerrit Reininghaus.

Ju Row Farr trained in dance and studied for a bachelor of arts in fine art/textiles at Goldsmiths, University of London. In 1991, she cofounded the artists’ group Blast Theory.

Blast Theory creates interactive art to explore social and political questions, placing audience members at the center of the work. The groups draw on popular culture, performance, technology and games, and the work often blurs the boundaries between the real and the fictional. In virtual and physical spaces from pubs, canals, and abandoned warehouses to libraries, museums, and apps, Blast Theory has presented its work at the Venice Biennale, Sundance Film Festival, and Tate Britain, London. Their awards include four BAFTA nominations, the Golden Nica for Interactive Arts at Prix Ars Electronica, and the Nam June Paik Art Centre Prize.

Ju has contributed to many academic papers with the Mixed Reality Lab, University of Nottingham, with which Blast Theory has collaborated since 1997. She has taught and spoken extensively about Blast Theory’s work around the world, from University of California, Los Angeles, to De Montfort University, Leicester, and Play UK 2020, Belgrade, and as a thinker-in-residence for the Government of South Australia in 2004.

Susan Ploetz is an artist-researcher based in the United States and Germany working with somatics, theory, writing, performance, simulation, and LARPing in different configurations. Her work deals with the overlapping spaces of soma and technos; she uses imagination, magical materiality, and protocol to induce emancipatory emotive dissonances and perceptual expansion. She explores body-centered game design and narrative-building play as cocreative world-making that develops individual agency within spontaneous, ephemeral, and decentralized communities.

She has presented work at such institutions as the Berliner Festspiele; Oude Kerk, Amsterdam; Sophiensaele, Berlin; ABC Art Fair, Berlin; Rupert, Vilnius; Documenta 13, Kassel; Portland Institute of Contemporary Art; Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo; and Performa, New York. She has been a guest artist/teacher, lectured, or given workshops at University of the Arts, Berlin; Gerrit Reitveld Academie, Amsterdam; Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam; DAAD, Berlin; Pervasive Media Studio, Bristol; University at Buffalo; and Dutch Art Institute, Arnhem.


00:03:40: “2097: We Made Ourselves Over”
00:19:02: Conversation with Ju Row Farr and Susan Ploetz
01:11:55: “PSY-SOMA-TEK” role-play workshop by Susan Ploetz
01:46:03: Breakout room: conversation with Carina Erdmann and Susan Ploetz
02:20:55: Debrief

Preview image: Blast Theory, 2097: We Made Ourselves Over (still), 2017.

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