Symbiosis makes its U.S. debut at PAM CUT // Center for an Untold Tomorrow, the film and new media arm of the Portland Art Museum in Oregon. One of the first multi-sensory XR (extended reality) storytelling experiences, this award-winning performative, multi-user installation takes the art of immersive storytelling to a whole new level. 

In Symbiosis, the participant is both spectator and performer. There are different character experiences that describe a specific human-animal or human-technologic relationship. By choosing one of the stories, the participant selects a character and role in the overall story world. All participants play a different symbiotic role in each other’s individual lives.

Each experience comes with a uniquely designed soft robotic suit that manipulates your body, transforms your posture and sensory perception of the Symbiosis world. VR sensors attached to your creature’s suit will inhabit your post-human body, and allows you to play and move in the virtual landscape of Symbiosis. The VR headsets are also equipped with olfactory fixtures emitting specially designed aromas that release in sync with each specific experience. 

Symbiosis is inspired by Donna Haraway’s book Staying with the Trouble, in particular its chapter “The Camille Stories: Children of Compost” in which the noted ecofeminist scholar imagines a post-humanist future with humans and monarch butterflies symbiogenetically joined. An all female cast has given voice to the characters of Symbiosis, which include variations on a Colorado river toad, a slime mold, a flowering camellia, and anglerfish, among others. Every creature has a custom design with a smell scenario, designed by Polymorf, that is specifically made for each story experience, and Dutch fashion artist Maurice Spapens designed the costumes.