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Extended Reality Comes to PAM CUT // Center for an Untold Tomorrow with Symbiosis

Learn more about this performative, multiuser, and multisensory experience from the creative minds of Dutch duo Polymorf.

Presented by Portland Art Museum October 27, 2022

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a plant? Perhaps a frog, a slug, or an orchid-butterfly hybrid? Or maybe you’re not an organic lifeform at all!  Beginning November 12, the PAM CUT // Center for an Untold Tomorrow building at 934 SW Salmon Street will come to life with the U.S. debut of Symbiosis, a performative, multiuser, and multisensory installation in which the human body will be redesigned to merge with technology and nature itself.

If this sounds wild and wonderful enough to pique your interest, then read on to hear from Symbiosis creators Marcel van Brakel and Mark Meeuwenoord.

In your own words, what is this experience like?

In Symbiosis, you will have an extended reality (XR) experience. You will follow a personal storyline, but in the end, you will come together with the other participants and their unique characters. You will be offered food, smells, and sensations. You will wear a soft robotic suit that provides haptic feedback. Each character has a custom design. We manipulate your body posture and shape with soft air pockets that are triggered at specific moments in the storyline you hear and see. Via the VR headset, you see the world of Symbiosis, and you navigate it as a genetically merged being: a human/animal crossover. You can free roam as that creature. Perfumes and food snacks augment your journey to let your senses melt with the world of Symbiosis.

If someone has never experienced VR or XR, what should they know before booking a ticket?

Symbiosis is an art experience that involves your whole body. You can expect your body to be gently wrapped in a costume. Depending on which character you choose, your body is altered into a position that matches your new Symbiosis body, via the costume. It is best to surrender to that new shape and feeling. There is nothing specific you have to do, just enjoy the new sensations and look around. We created beautifully designed costumes that are adjustable to many body types. We have people of all ages, shapes, and sizes enjoying Symbiosis. During your journey through our virtual world we manipulate all your senses. It is exciting but also stimulating. Symbiosis is for curious and open-minded explorers, who are eager to be taken on a journey.

What is the most innovative or unique aspect of this installation?

Central to the experience of Symbiosis is that you can explore the far future as a new being: an altered body, new senses, a new awareness to explore. We are very proud of the soft robotics we designed and developed to help your body feel in sync with the character you are embodying, and the virtual world you are discovering. You will feel vibration, soft pressure points–this alters your perception. It is completely multisensory. The food snacks—designed by Michelin-starred restaurant Karpendonkse Hoeve from the Netherlands—and the special smell composition are also integral to the experience, as they are offered to fully immerse you into your Symbiosis self.

What does it mean to you and the team to be presenting this here in Portland for the first time in the U.S.?

We have toured the U.S. previously with our award-winning work Famous Deaths, but we are really excited to come back with new work. We discovered that the U.S. audience is very open and curious. Portland is an amazing hub for us to be, a place where art and tech intersect. Polymorf comes from the south of the Netherlands, which has a similar mix. We are really eager to connect with the Portland audience and are humbled and honored to be here. It is the first time Symbiosis will be on display for so long. We’ve custom rebuilt the installation to be able to show it here at PAM CUT. We hope you come to discover Symbiosis.


Tickets: $30 per participant. $25 for Portland Art Museum members. BOOK TICKETS.

PAM CUT staff will monitor and assist participants throughout the entire experience. Each session runs for roughly 45 minutes and up to six people can participate at a time. For accessibility accommodations please email [email protected]

Group sales and corporate or partner reservations are available upon request at [email protected].

Symbiosis is made possible thanks to the generous support of Nike, HTC Vive, Flatline Fabrication, and the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York.


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