Bad news, you’re dead. It’s a shock, but don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Besides, it happens to everyone! Your caseworker calls you and she has an hour to fill out your file with you, e.g. reviewing your past life and doing all the paperwork. You both have to be quick because, after one hour, you’ll automatically be put on hold for 728 years with Mambo No. 5 on a loop, and nobody wants that.
The NEXT TIME experience
NEXT TIME is the latest creation of Candle House Collective. It is presented as “an absurd, intimate, highly interactive experience for one” and takes place entirely over the phone.
Your caseworker will call you at your chosen time. She explains your situation to you, then starts to go through your file, which contains every detail of your life on Earth. Obviously, you have not found the most efficient celestial agent – she regularly gets her questions confused and shows a little too much enthusiasm, often creating somewhat absurd situations.
Still, she is very well-intentioned and sincerely wants to help you through this difficult stage. For instance, she instructs you to distance yourself from the entity that has just died (you), because your spirit will perpetuate itself: either by reincarnating in a new being, or by passing definitively into the afterlife, as yourself. The idea is to evaluate your life. If you are satisfied enough, you can preserve this identity for eternity, or you can take a chance on reincarnation.
Clementine (I had to name the caseworker after something that makes me happy) asks me several questions to review my life: what are the accomplishments of which Grapefruit (my new name that she chose for the now-deceased Charlotte-Amélie) was most proud of? Did she have any regrets? Were there things she prevented herself from doing out of fear?
After 45 minutes of discussion about my past life, it’s time to make a choice: am I going to keep my identity or reincarnate?
What we liked in NEXT TIME:
An uplifting experience
We had a lot of fun with this crazy celestial agent and we left the experience proud of what we have done with our lives! Each participant will have a different perspective on his or her own life, but the experience highlights the positive aspects and is a caring discussion of regrets. Personally, after a year traveling the world, I’m not complaining! I surely was not the hardest “file” to take care of.
The performance of the actress:
Adapting to an invisible audience is quite a challenge. Yet Katy Murphy mastered it. She perfectly embodies her character as an over-enthusiastic and clumsy caseworker. My answers are embedded into her narrative, for small details or for deeper conversation.
The medium is part of the story:
When we participate in an immersive experience, we accept the most unlikely situations. We’re an easy, good audience, so if the website says that the experience will take place over the phone, we accept it easily. But in NEXT TIME, the use of the phone and the duration of the experience is justified, which makes it even more consistent!
What we liked less:
A short experience:
The experience lasts an hour, which is quite long and for a one-to-one. But some questions require some time to be answered: What were you afraid of in your former life? Did this fear ever prevent you from doing something? Do you have any regrets?
There are some questions I had already asked myself, that I could answer easily. Some others however were more difficult. But with this limited time (the call must last less than 60 minutes!), I was giving vague answers. It was hard to really get into deep introspection.
But if I’m somewhat frustrated not having found the “right” answers during NEXT TIME, the call ended I have all the time I need to investigate further- and that’s probably the point.
Remote intimacy by Candle House Collective
Last year we had a brief exchange with the founder of the company, Evan Neiden, about their creative intentions.
Candle House Collective is known for its one-on-one experiences. Often by phone, sometimes by mail or text. Evan wants to create experiences where participants can take the time to ask themselves questions about loneliness, forgiveness, love, justice… which they often cannot do in their everyday life.
Imagine a rew relationship with the participant:
By being the only audience member, and thanks to the phone anonymity, Candle House experiences create a more equal relationship between the participant and the actor. The participant plays a major role in the experience. He or she guides it according to his or her needs. Each experience will be very different, depending on what they are looking for: to be surprised, to share their intimacy and doubts, or to live a story. The anonymity of the telephone encourages a sharing of trust, without judgment. And this is how he conceives his experiences: a friendly invasion into the daily lives of his participants. He defines his experiences as immersive because they bring stories into the reality of the participants. In the reality of their environment – the participants choose the place where they live the experience, and the stories could always have actually taken place. Maybe some celestial being really got the wrong person to call me before I died. This is a feature for all their creations!