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06.07.2013 REVIEW

The Velvet State, 2013. Foto: Maria Bordorff.

Roskilde 2013: The Velvet State; A sensous society

Just left of Orange Stage at Roskilde Festival you meet a strange sight; a large wooden construction reminiscent of shells, bubbles, interconnected as little houses. As a festival guest, you either choose to ignore and pass this mysterious hub, or you enter to participate what reveals to be the most ambitious performance-based art project at the festival.

AF Jeppe Ugelvig

As a part of Roskilde’s Art Zone, The Velvet State is the result of a collaboration between the two performance groups Fiction Pimps (DK) and Collective Unconscous (UK) and architect Simon Hjermind Jensen of SHJWorks.
Together, they have created an immense interactive performance right in the middle of the festival site, artistically complimenting the music assortment of the week.
With interactive performance art (a term used loose-handedly) it is understood that the project depends entirely from the viewer’s active participation and engagement. There is a narrative, there is a frame, yet the story is moldable and yours to tell.

The 30-some performers utilize the self-coined fiction pimping, a performative fictionalization of a given situation in order to “manifest that which dwells in the parallel worlds” – that be a conference, a nightclub, a political meeting, or as now, a festival.

One enters The Velvet State – a ritualistic universe based on the idea of the Sensous Society, a society concentrated on feeling and spirituality as a response to the money- and time-driven world we are normally positioned in. With 13 rooms and 30 performers, this is not the project you casually stroll through with a beer; it is encouraged to spend at least an hour inside in order to fully participate.
The project discusses society and community, and appropriately the created reality is structured around 10 archetypes of the Sensous Society; the Pink Narcissist, the Fetishist, the Killer, amongst others. Together they present a collection of fictous individual and collective narratives, intertwined and mysterious, and involve the viewer in to it.

The Velvet State is constructed and structured around anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep’s concept of liminality; the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals.
Simon Hjermind Jensen has incorporated this in the architectural shaping, translating the three liminal stages in to a physical space. The performance is ritualistic to its core.
The whole performance is dependant on participation, engagement and involvement, the courage to lose yourself in an ambiguous context. A challenge when coming from a music festival context (a performance on its own), but successful nonetheless; people queue for hours to enter this surreal universe.


Festival goers participating in the interactive performance at The Velvet State. Photo Maria Bordorff

After an initiation ceremony of blindfolding and body painting, one is invited to communicate and interact with the archetypes and the maintainers (citizens of the society, functioning as guides for the participants), and to shape the experience as desired. Distant ambient music makes you lose the concept of time, and people have said to spend several hours in this sensous universe.

As a whole, the experience triggers self-reflection and critical discussion on how we function as social beings, our individuality as well as our collective characteristics. The Velvet State functions as a complete escapism from the beer-soaked setting it is situated in, a meditative learning experience for anyone who wishes to join.

Open daily from 12-24 until the festival closes on sunday.

Performers at the Velvet State, 2013. Foto: Maria Bordorff.

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