Entering into a darkened room crowded with people, there is a powerful smell of incense. A robed figure touches the forehead of each initiate, uttering an incantation. In the centre, a figure crouches, swaying slightly, engaged in some kind of mystical ritual.
In 1977, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope captivated audiences with stunning multisensory special effects and science-fiction storytelling. The original Star Wars trilogy sent shockwaves of excitement through popular culture that would resonate for years to come. Beyond the films themselves, the Star Wars universe extended into a wider sphere of cultural artefacts such as toys, books and comics, which allowed audiences to recreate and extend the stories.
I can still recall the trip to Bournemouth to get the Atari ST “Discovery Pack.” The Atari ST was a major leap forward from our previous computer, the ZX Spectrum, offering superior graphics and sound capabilities. It also had a floppy disk drive, which meant it was no-longer necessary to listen to extended sequences of noise and coloured bars while the game loaded (this was an exercise in patience at the time, though retrospectively these loading sequences seem more interesting due to the similarities with experimental noise music!)
The recent resurgence of virtual reality (VR) has seen an exciting period of innovation in the format, as developers explore the fresh new possibilities that it brings. VR differs from the video games you might play on a standard television in that the head-mounted display engulfs the visual field, producing a more immersive sensory experience. In VR, not only can you see a virtual environment, but you can also turn your head to look around it.
The concepts of altered states and psychedelia creep in to a great deal of visual art. According to Lewis-Williams, some early forms of Palaeolithic rock art may have been shamanic in origin, and represent forms seen during visionary states. 18th Century works such as Fuseli’s The Nightmare (1781) depicted the ‘old hag’ phenomenon, a type of hypnagogic hallucination that is experienced on the threshold of sleep, during which a person feels as though a daemon or other supernatural entity is suffocating them.
It’s a chilly November evening, but inside Apiary Studios in East London, things are heating up as the venue gradually fills with people. The atmosphere is electric; everyone is here for the Cyberdelics Incubator, an event aimed at showcasing the latest in psychedelic arts projects using immersive media and techno-wizardry.