#853 DocLab: Testing Boundaries in an Audio Tour of a Stranger’s Home with Nadja van der Weide’s “Look Inside”

Look Inside is an immersive experience the premiered at IDFA DocLab 2019 where you get to take an audio tour of a complete stranger’s home. This was one of the hottest tickets in all of IDFA DocLab selling out quickly, and being one of the hardest pieces to get into. It was a completely novel context of an experience, one that tested my boundaries, and ended up provided a lot of really deep and fundamental experiential design insights in looking at the dialectic between the self versus the other and public versus private contexts.

Creator Nadja van der Weide did her a master’s degree on the theme of “reinventing daily life” at the Sandberg Institute, which was a part of the temporary theme that lasts for only two years. She’s been exploring how to use theatrical experiences for us to consider how we can make novel connections to other people in her Common Good performances, and so Look Inside in her second installation that orchestrates unique encounters with “the other.”

After getting a ticket to this experience, you get an email with an address and instructions for how to open a lockbox that contains a phone with an audio tour as well as a key to open the front door. You enter into the home, and then are guided through the home and invited to test your boundaries about what you feel comfortable doing. There’s a number of specific situations you’re invited to play with, and each one is difficult to predict how you’re going to react until you’re in that actual situation. Van der Weide likes how these contexts are so specific and unique, and how we end up using a lot of intuition in order to explore our boundaries character in these situations.

Overall, this was my most memorable experiences at the IDFA DocLab, and it also proved to provide some of the deepest experiential design insights. The context of entering into a complete strangers home while they’re not there is something that is extremely intimate. There’s all sorts of curatorial decisions that the owner had to make about what would be public and what would be private, and the experience ends up being a bit of a mystery in trying to piece together fragments of this owner’s life, their story, and different aspects of their character or personality based upon what you might be able to glean from the environment.

So in some sense, it’s an environmental narrative. But in another sense, it’s more of an open-ended experience and generative narrative that’s creates opportunities for the participants to test their boundaries and sense of ethical thresholds in deciding what is and is not okay to do within this situation. It was a completely unique and novel context for me to be in, and so there were surprising things that I did that I wouldn’t have been able to predict.

I had a chance to unpack my experience with van der Weide, and for her to explain her experiential design process including the logistics of trying to find people who were willing to open up their home for this type of art project (feel free to contact her if you’d like to open up your home for this anywhere around the world). It turns out that it was a pretty involved development process with a lot of people who end up dropping out once they realize the full implications of what it’d mean to have complete strangers poking around their house. I talk a lot about my own experiences in taking the tour, and what I discovered about traits of my own character. Finally, we talk about this type of performance are as an intervention into daily life designed to find points of connection and common ground of humanity in the midst of an economy and technologies that cultivate patterns of loneliness.


Here’s the trailer for the Look Inside experience

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Music: Fatality