How do we navigate social boundaries, and how do they shape who we are? What choices do we make when interacting with others, and how does that affect our intimacy with each other?
The Exploratorium and San Francisco-based dancer and choreographer Benjamin Levy explore the nuances of social boundaries with Comfort Zone, a new participatory installation which integrates choreography into a virtual, interactive experience, exploring themes of group dynamics, choice, and social boundaries. Comfort Zone will debut October 22, 2013, in the Black Box in the museum’s West Gallery, a space devoted to experimenting with social interaction and exploring the interplay between science, society, and culture.
Levy began working as an Exploratorium artist-in-residence in 2011 to develop a work for the West Gallery, the space in the museum focused on creative and scientific investigations of human phenomena. Comfort Zone will invite visitors to explore these themes in a playful way, using their bodies, not their critical minds.
“My work with my company LEVYdance explores intimacy – the different ways we connect as families, friends, partners, and communities,” says Levy. “The Exploratorium has been the perfect partner to develop this theme in a fun and immersive setting. In Comfort Zone museum visitors will have an opportunity to step into a hyper real, virtual world where their actions and choices will affect their surroundings. It’s like stepping into a video game.”
The project’s collaborative team is Benjamin Levy (concept, direction and choreography), Garance Marneur (visual designer, Dramaturge, project manager), and Anticlockwise (Interaction design and Software Development). At the center of the experience is a virtual, responsive “avatar” which interacts with visitors through movement, encouraging them to investigate choice in social situations. The 10-minute exhibit cycle will lead visitors through stages of interaction, from connecting with the game’s avatar to cooperating with other visitors in the room to create movements and shapes together, collectively and playfully exploring the edges of each participant’s comfort zone.
“In the West Gallery, we're trying to create a safe space in which visitors can play with social behavior and experiment with the ways they interact with and think about others and themselves,” says Hugh McDonald, Ph.D., a social psychologist and associate curator for the museum’s West Gallery. “We want them to reflect on and question social phenomena just as they reflect on things like light, sound, and motion in other parts of the museum. Ben's work really pushes people to explore and reflect upon how they relate to others, to critically examine their comfort zones around social interaction. It's very powerful, and a natural fit with the goals of the gallery.”
About Benjamin Levy
Benjamin Levy is a choreographer, dancer, and the founding artistic director of LEVYdance. He is recognized for cutting-edge interdisciplinary works that explore the nuance and drama of human intimacy. Levy founded LEVYdance in 2002 and the troupe quickly became known for its innovative works and collaborations. In 2004 Levy was named one of the Top 25 Choreographers to Watch by Dance Magazine and was awarded a San Francisco Bay Guardian Goldie Award.