Anatomical Theatres of Mixed Reality (ATOM-r)
How might innovative approachs to research, through the use of live performance and augmented reality, present medical narratives and historical archives?
This project was a collaboration between ATOM-r, Dr Theron Schmidt, Lecturer in Theatre & Liberal Arts at King’s, and other researchers at King’s including Professor Alan Read, Professor of Theatre, and Professor Brian Hurwitz, Professor of Medicine and the Arts. In 2012 ATOM-r approached Theron, Alan, and Brian to discuss the use and history of the Anatomy Theatre & Museum at King's. These conversations and the research ATOM-r gathered subsequently fed into the artistic work of the company and their performance The Operature in the Anatomy Theatre & Museum, performed as part of the 2013 Arts & Humanities Festival at King's. The performance was also supported by the English Department’s Creative Seed Fund and the Fulbright Inter-country Lecturing Programme.
Anatomical Theatres of Mixed Reality (ATOM-r) are a mixed discipline performance collective, based in Chicago, whose work explores forensics, anatomy, and 21st century embodiment through performance, language and emerging technologies. The goal of this project was to present a unique and innovative approach to research into medical narratives and historical archives, in which research is embodied as live performance with augmented reality overlaiad in conjunction with a screen-based digital installation.
The Operature was presented across the two spaces of the Anatomy Theatre and Museum and attracted a wide audience, including those interested in movement, digital arts, medical humanities, and queer histories. The multi-media work used dance, spoken text taken from historical archives of anatomical theatre, crime investigation, documentation of sexual behaviour and an augmented reality layer whicgh used web-enabled tablets and mobile devices.
The core of ATOM-r's performance was an interactive operating table that generates screen-based content and distributes virtual overlays that could be viewed through mobile devices throughout the event. The choreography of bodies and objects enacted anatomy as both an intact whole and a distributed data-consuming system, as the elevated surface of the work shifts underfoot, fluctuating between references to surgery and banquet. As such, it tested a convergence of experimental movement and text, archive and site, and emerging technologies.
Images by David Tett
While in residence at King’s, the company also ran an exploratory workshop with students on the MA Theatre & Performance Studies, where they shared aspects of their practice and their use of technological staging, giving the students the opportunity to experience a unique form of live performance. ATOM-r then continued this work as resident artists at the National Museum of Health and Medicine Chicago, where they presented a 25-screen exhibition available to watch here. The company have also worked with the New York magazine PINUPS to produce an ‘augmented reality performance publication’ that documents The Operature, available via the Live Art Development Agency
The performative elements of the event at the Arts & Humanities Festival were complemented by presentations from invited artists and scholars engaging a variety of topics related to the work, including:
- Dr Matt Lodder (Lecturer in Contemporary Art and Theory, University of Essex) ‘Samuel Steward - Successes and Failures of a Sex-Addicted Academic Tattoo Artist’
- Kira O’Reilly (artist) ‘Read #: liverwort/wind/code’
- Fiona Wright (independent artist, Honorary Research Associate, Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre) ‘exactly this many bones’
Dr Theron Schmidt
Theron is a Lecturer in Theatre & Liberal Arts at King’s College London. His research and teaching interests include contemporary theatre, Live Art, participatory practices, and politically engaged performance.
In addition to his academic research, he has written widely about live art and performance for a variety of publications, including magazines and artist books, and also as part of innovative critical writing projects that foster interaction between audiences, artists and critics.
Anatomical Theatres of Mixed Reality (ATOM-r)
ATOM-r is a collective exploring forensics, anatomy, and 21st century embodiment through performance, language and emerging technologies. Participants include Mark Jeffery (choreography), Judd Morrissey (technology and dramaturgical systems), Justin Deschamps, Sam Hertz, Christopher Knowlton, Blake Russell and Kevin Stanton (collaborators/performers), with Alfredo Salazar-Caro (New Media Artist.)
ATOM-r co-founders Judd Morrissey and Mark Jeffery merge digital literary practices and performance. A given piece may have no singular fixed form and be alternately or simultaneously presented as internet art, durational live installation or a performance of fixed length. Both artists were members of Goat Island Performance Group.
The project was also supported by the Department of English at King's.