The signature of digital culture is a compulsion to connect with realities and experiences outside of our community. Optimally, pervasive connectivity allows us to stretch our real self by playing identities as a means of establishing empathetic relations with multiple histories, ideas and perspectives. The growing influence of identitarian tribal affiliations on the left and right – exacerbated by the immersive worlds we build online – inhibits discursive acts of imagination. This article argues the imaginations of audiences can be trans-ed by inviting them to participate in discursive thinking events in immersive theatre. I apply Amelia Jones’s conception of trans- as a term ‘implying exceeding, moving towards, changing; going across, over or beyond’ (2016:1) to analyze the complex web of connections participants scaffold in the performances Operation Black Antler by Blast Theory and Hydrocracker (2019) and One Day, Maybe by dreamthinkspeak (2017) between bodies, times, historical and national narratives. I will explore how trans- manifests as a performative dialectic where (sexual, gender, racial, etc.) identities become dramaturgically fluid and unfixed, and consider how this mode of participation can effectuate forms of discursive thinking that are contingent on participating in acts of empathy rather than of conflict. Hannah Arendt’s writings on representative thinking – perceiving political realities outside of one’s community by bringing examples to mind ‘that are not actually present’ (1981) – provides a critical framing for trans-participation in my argumentation. I argue trans-participation constitutes a thinking event which allows individuals to experience perspectives as a strategy of challenging right-wing national narratives of the people versus the elites. Trans-participation complicates rhetorically crude conceptions of post- truth by allowing people to play identities that connect them to the far-right ideology in Operation Black Antler and competing national narratives of the 1980 Gwangju Uprising in South Korea in One Day, Maybe inside fictional worlds.
Arendt, H. (1981) The Life of the Mind. London: Harcourt
Jones, A. (2016) ‘Introduction’, Performance Research, 21:5, 1-11