Bringing theater into museums and libraries with virtual reality: innovative project starts in Bologna

The Map of the Heart in VR project brings theater to museums and libraries through virtual reality.

It will start on April 27 in Bologna, from the municipal collections of Palazzo d’Accursio, and then continue in museums and libraries (pandemic situation permitting), the project The Map of the Heart in VR proposed by the Ateliersi company of Bologna. The aim is to bring theater out of the theater, into museums and libraries, taking advantage of new digital technologies, while at the same time leading to a reflection on the adolescent anxieties of yesterday and today.

The show is inspired by the mail column edited by Lea Melandri, a leading figure in feminism, in the 1980s teenage weekly Ragazza In. In the column Inquietudini, Lea Melandri did not respond directly to those who wrote, but opened the discussion with psychoanalytic, poetic and literary stimuli, relating the different voices and thus creating an early social network between girls and boys who dialogued through her column.

Based on Lea Melandri’s idea, authors and artistic directors of the Ateliersi company Fiorenza Menni and Andrea Mochi Sismondi lead an emotional journey through those letters, interweaving the adolescent urgencies of the time with those of the present. The musical and poetic vibrations of those years will be revived in the music of Mauro Sommavilla and Vincenzo Scorza and in the voice of Bolognese singer-songwriter Cristallo.

“This project has the ability to propose intergenerational content suitable both for today’s teenagers, who are at great risk of isolation, and for their parents who were teenagers in the years when the letters that represent the dramaturgical center of the work were written,” commented Fiorenza Menni. “Melandri herself actively participated in the creation of the play by sharing all the letters and issues of the magazine with us. For several years now we have been working on lowering the psychological threshold of access to museums, to make them places that welcome an ongoing and freer attendance.”

Following the forced closure of theaters for a year now, Fiorenza Menni and Andrea Mochi Sismondi have devised a new way of viewing the show, accessible virtually, individually and free of charge thanks to an installation. The viewing station is a swivel chair connected to an Oculus Quest 2 visor; the viewer will be greeted by a performer who will guide him or her through the experience. The performers, technicians and staff who will work on the installation are identified from among those who are currently at a work stoppage due to the restrictions caused by the pandemic, and this choice is meant to be a precise sign that Ateliersi wants to give for a restart that can allow workers to recover from the current difficulties.

“The choice of experimenting with a new mode of vision, which starts from theater and arrives in museums and libraries through virtual reality,” added Andrea Mochi Sismondi, “stems from the need for a radical and collective reflection on the evolution of live arts in the contemporary, also, but not only, in relation to what we are experiencing because of the pandemic.”

In museums, specific paths among the works will be offered to visitors, in line with the themes of the show; in libraries, recommended reading paths will be linked to the same themes.

The Heart Map in VR was developed in collaboration with Touchlabs and Gravital, software houses specializing in virtual and augmented reality. The project is supported by the Fondazione del Monte di Bologna e Ravenna, in collaboration with Istituzione Bologna Musei, as part of Patto per la lettura; it will be included in the Bologna Estate billboard. Thanks to the support of partners, including MIC, the Emilia Romagna Region and the Municipality of Bologna, audience participation will be free of charge.

Ph.Credit Margherita Caprilli

Bringing theater into museums and libraries with virtual reality: innovative project starts in Bologna
Bringing theater into museums and libraries with virtual reality: innovative project starts in Bologna

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