You’re in a séance, in complete darkness. Suddenly you hear a noise. What is it about? Is it real? Is it from a recording? Did you really hear it? Or imagined it? What the hell is that?!
This would be you in if you attended Séance. The experience plunges about thirty participants into total darkness, for 15 minutes, to make them live a sound experience at the borders of paranormal. We talked to Salvador Garza Fishburn, the producer of the show in Mexico, and David Rosenberg, one of the creators of the experience.
What is Séance?
Séance is an experience that takes place in a container. Thirty participants are placed around a table and find themselves in total darkness. A disturbing darkness since you rarely – if ever – find yourself in an environment where you can’t even see your hands.
Then, using headphones and speakers we will broadcast sounds…and deprived of sight, it will be extremely difficult for the audience to understand what is real and what is not. They are never completely sure of what is going on… and so, they create their own story throught imagination.
Depending on their beliefs and backgrounds, participants are experiencing something very personal and intense.
So, it is first and foremost a sensory experience?
Of course! We deprive participants of the view that is the primary source of information.
In fact, we are able to create what VR can’t do at the moment: a complete immersion… without the use of images. We create a story in which participants feel completely immersed. When you are bombarded with visual stimuli, it is difficult to focus on the story. On the contrary, the participants here are much more receptive.
How do you create the fear in Séance ?
Fear comes from uncertainty. We put the audience in a certain vulnerability so that the boundary between what is real and what is not is completely blurred. The participants, deprived of their main sense (sight), are completely confused and imagine their own fear.
Fear can also come from the instructions that we give at the beginning. We try to break the apparent invulnerability of the participants in a progressive and gentle way: once you are in the container you will not be able to leave, you will be surrounded by strangers, the phones cannot be used, you will only be able to speak when we allow you to, etc. This creates a strong climate of apprehension among a participant.
Once you are in the container you will not be able to leaveSéance Tutorial
But you don’t need to be afraid to enjoy the experience. It is about dealing with a certain conception of fear, and learning more about your own certainties and beliefs.
And the group effect is interesting, you live this experience with people you don’t know and who will have reactions that will affect your own behaviour. It’s a very important part of the experience.
Why such a short experience?
On one hand, few people want to sit for an hour to have an experience like this one. On the other hand, the experience is intense, 15 minutes is more than enough to achieve the desired effects.
And then 15 minutes is also an interesting time from a participation point of view. For a typical participant, it’s easy to say to yourself: “ok, for only 15 minutes, let’s give it a try. If it’s bad, it would not have lost lot of my time”. We reach a different audience, not used to this type of experience.
But isn’t it also a complicated timing? Few people are willing to travel for only 15 minutes.
Hence the idea of the container! The idea is that the experience comes to them, not the other way around. We select our locations in high traffic areas (shopping malls, near theatres, music festivals, etc.). And ideally, in the long run, perhaps this type of experience can be found in dedicated amusement parks! The future of the haunted house? Why not?!
The container is ideal for that, isn’t it? Why did you specifically choose a container for the experiment?
The container speaks to everyone. Everyone is familiar with this form. The idea was to get you inside and discover a new world. Outside, it’s a simple box, inside, a new world is opening up to you.
Moreover, it is an object where we can easily reach total darkness, and with one can play easily (space being limited it is easy to readjust the environment). It is visible to the public and one is necessarily intrigued when one sees a container in a place where it shouldn’t be.
Where did you get the inspiration for Séance and how did you create the piece?
The session comes first from the idea of provoking fear and anxiety, but above all a strong level of awareness of one’s own beliefs and fears. We try to create a situation in which people are able to analyse themselves and understand their feelings, their behaviours at the limit of rationality.
It is a way to explore fear through uncertainty. So we first created the piece in London and then brought it to the Mexican audience. And it’s interesting because the beliefs are not the same, the reactions are completely different !
What were the difficulties in creating Séance ?
The process of sound creation. It is a complex and difficult job to create the right sound at the right time and allow people to bring this sound to life and give it a reality in their imagination.
It is difficult to create a realistic paranormal environment with only sound as a medium. We use a binaural recording that aims to reproduce in each ear a sound as close as possible to reality, but it is a complex process.
One of the biggest difficulties is playing with people’s psychology. Fear is not explicitly provoked. It is people themselves who create it for themselves.
Finally, immersive experiences are something very new in Mexico. In the north, few people go to the theatre. We had to adapt our language to be able to attract participants and place them in a new context, not using the word “theatre” for example.
The future for you?
Well, we’ve created a new show in London, Flight, which should again cross the ocean!
Séance in Saltillo is now over! But It will continue in other cities in Mexico, the United Kingdom and other countries! Unfortunately, we were not able to test the experiment. Nevertheless, the very positive comments on the experience and description of the creators make us very keen to live their next experience!
To learn more about Séance and discover their next dates,let’s go here (website) and here (facebook)
You can also follow the next productions of Darkfield, the company that created the show, here (the website) and here (facebook)