“The Time Traveler’s Lens” An Extended Reality Immersive Performance Available At Princeton Battlefield State Park

April 23, 2021

PRINCETON, NJ (MERCER)–If you’re a Central Jersey local, the ionic colonnade at Princeton Battlefield State Park is a monument you’ve likely visited or driven past on numerous occasions—but what is it, really?

Choreographer, filmmaker, and Lawrenceville NJ resident Merli V. Guerra presents a groundbreaking new production that answers this question through a creative blending of history, dance, and technology. Now open to the public, “The Time Traveler’s Lens” is an extended reality (XR) immersive performance illuminating the history of this mysterious local landmark.

“As an artist and history-lover, I am constantly finding myself tapping into the hidden layers of a space’s identity, past and present,” says Guerra. “When visiting ruins, I have an urge to physically touch the remnants of stone walls and pillars that hold memories of times past.”

Guerra is a professional dancer and award-winning interdisciplinary artist with a background in ballet, modern, and classical Odissi Indian dance. She is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Luminarium Dance Company—an award-winning contemporary company in Boston, MA—and has performed lead roles with acclaimed companies on tours to India (2007, 2012) and Japan (2009). Guerra is a freelance choreographer, filmmaker, writer, and designer whose works have been presented by 80+ events across the U.S., as well as Argentina, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. She is currently a Part-Time Lecturer and MFA in Dance candidate at Rutgers University, set to graduate this May.

In March of last year, Guerra began working on her thesis, choosing to highlight the history of the colonnade: “When I began researching the layers of history associated with the colonnade, I questioned how its marble columns might play back these experiential recordings; how the experiences of these stones might translate into human behavior; and how choreographic and virtual tools might be used to immerse viewers in each layer of this site’s identity.”

The culminating production, presented with support from both Rutgers University and Luminarium, publicly launched on Monday and provides viewers with an exciting interactive experience both on and off the park grounds. This site-specific performance features five 360-degree dance films that are viewable as augmented reality (AR) across the battlefield grounds on visitors’ personal mobile devices or as a virtual reality (VR) experience when viewed remotely elsewhere. This immersive, yet Covid-safe, performance invites visitors to become active participants in the colonnade’s history. Shot in 360, no two viewings of this work will ever be alike.

“My mother’s property is within walking distance from the monument. I remember many visits there when I was a child,” says Wendy Lawson, who viewed the work remotely from Massachusetts. “Merli’s work has brought this monument alive again! What fascinating research she uncovered. I got lost in time while watching all the videos!”

“The Time Traveler’s Lens” is accessible via a website (http://luminariumdance.org/time) that can be unlocked for free using passwords found at the Princeton Battlefield State Park or by paying a one-time ticket purchase for infinite remote access. Visitors are encouraged to view these XR films using the free YouTube app on their mobile devices for an immersive 360-degree experience. Visit http://luminariumdance.org/time to learn more.