Desert Rain
A game, an installation, a performance by Blast Theory

Premiered in Nottingham in November 1999, Desert Rain has since been seen in Karlsruhe, London, Bristol and Stockholm and further presentations are planned around the world. Responses from those who have explored its challenges have been strikingly positive. As a critic wrote in the Sunday Times, It's a powerful piece and it excites curious emotions in the viewers.

Six audience members at a time enter the environment and are instructed to find a target. Separated from each other in fabric cubicles, the players have to negotiate a virtual desert projected onto a rain curtain. Led later through the spray and over a sand dune, the audience encounters on a television screen the person who has been their supposed target. Each such target has an association with the Gulf Wars.

Desert Rain offers a disconcerting engagement with understandings of warfare in todays mediatised world. Its shifting plays with ideas of the virtual and the real, of technology and nature, and of mass media and individual experience, are all paralleled in the 'mixed reality' interface technologies, most especially the physically permeable rain curtain, developed especially for the production. Desert Rain also sets up new kinds of relationships and new forms of story telling between interacting audience members. It confuses in productive ways conventional understandings of who is a performer and who is the viewer. And in its complex collision of computer games with a critique of modern warfare, it both utilises and challenges conventional ideas of narrative.

As an allusive, participatory experience that satisfyingly integrates virtual reality technology and pushes it beyond its supposed limits, Desert Rain exemplifies many important aspects of the art of tomorrow.

More information:
A Staged Mixed Reality Performance
Pushing Mixed Reality Boundaries

Desert Rain (1999)
Concept: Blast Theory (Matt Adams, Ju Row Farr, Nic Tandavanitj, Jamie Iddon with Becky Edmunds)
Realisation: Blast Theory with MRL at University of Nottingham, Communications Research Group (Steve Benford, Chris Greenhalgh, Boriana Koleva, Ian Taylor), ZKM Karlsruhe (Technical staff of the Institute for Visual Media) and KTH, Stockholm
Events: NOW ninety9 festival, October 1999 in Nottingham; November 1999 in Karlsruhe; 2000 in Bristol, London, Glasgow a.o.