We are really excited to finally share about our Transcendence Research & Performance Design project! We've always been fascinated by the revolutionary transformations that transcendence and altered states of consciousness can have on the self and society. So we are now applying our decade’s worth of performance design expertise to create the next generation of transformational and transcendent experiences to reimagine the future of art therapies and live performances.

Transcendence is a fundamental part of the human experience. Since the dawn of our species people have been losing themselves in ritualistic prayer, song and dance.

Emily Estephani “The Power of Meaning”

Transcendence can be the single most intense experience of people’s lives, helping them to feel that their lives are more meaningful. The pandemic had major impacts on people’s emotional and mental health, contributing to the acceleration of the global crisis of isolation. We artists can respond to these crises of meaning and lack of connection by designing transcendent experiences that can help people reconnect with their self, each other and the environment.

While often linked to religious experiences, transcendence can also be a source of secular spirituality and wellbeing through new contemporary rituals and experiential therapies. Mainstream neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry are actively studying the powerful effects of transcendence on the human psyche.

Our research interests started in 2018 when our Director, Maria Almena, published her first academic paper on Transcendence Design at the EVA Conference. We now want to share our design insights with the wider community so we can all contribute to the positive evolution of our society through conscious art experiences.

Supported so far by The National Gallery, The Arts Council of England, King’s College London and other partners, our project asks: How can we design new types of performative art experiences that can create feelings of transcendence?

To answer this question, we are organising expert seminars and performance workshops with artists, practitioners and researchers:

  • What can we learn from neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry, as well as ceremonies, rituals and mystical traditions?
  • How can artists collaborate with therapists to apply therapeutic methods as performance design frameworks?
  • What embodied practices and techniques are relevant, such as breathwork, body movement, chanting, dance, light, music and sound?
  • How can interactive and XR technologies be used to design in-person, physical performances, as well as hybrid, physical-digital ones?
  • What experimental performances could test out these methods, practices, techniques and technologies?

We are building a community of artists, practitioners and researchers to create a Transcendence Lab, which will be exploring the crossover of sensory, mystical and psychedelic experiences within a research framework focused on the human body XR (Extended Technologies) and ritual narratives.

This is a collaborative project by nature, so do get in touch if you want to join us or support it! Also, it would mean a lot to us if you could recommend this article to anyone who might be interested. We would love to expand this project and need support!

Blog post by Maria Almena & Ben Koppelman.