This Great Plague, a DIY Immersive Experience

This YearningUnited States


Production / Indie/Non-Profit


Indie / Nonprofit. Tracy Smith


My name is Tracy Mae Smith. I live, raise a young family, and create immersive multisensory art in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I discover novel antiviral, anticancer, and antibiotic drugs thru development of new DNA sequencing methods with a biotech in Midtown, Manhattan.

London, 1665. Plague spreading person to person, house to house. 100,000 dead in 18 months. Sound familiar? Based on historical accounts, This Great Plague transports participants with the smells, sounds, and feels used for centuries to purge space and self of disease. This project debuted a year ago as an in-person Halloween spectacle of incense, fire, and plague-doctored witchcraft against a backdrop of EDM beats. In the year that has passed our world has changed and we need healing more than ever but in person isn’t a thing anymore. Throughout October I bicycled delivered This Great Plague DIY packages throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan (and mailed them around the continent). I emailed with and researched and met on stoops and doorways all manner of artists and hipsters and incredibly empathetic human beings, whose greatest common element is a need of connection and healing.

This project deserves the Interaction Award because it connects people in underutilized, unexpected, and powerful ways. The techniques I use ask the participant’s brain to fill in the gaps between sensory inputs and to create a new story, unique to each individual. The same smells and sounds are interpreted in vastly different ways by different people. In this project I wanted to reimagine historical storytelling and engage in new ways with my audience. I wanted to bring potentially powerful methods of medieval healing to a new group of people. These have been people interested in new immersive experiences and those interested in the dark and mysterious and those interested in smell and those interested in ASMR… It is a diverse group of people who mostly seem like they are needing something in life. I made people cry. I made people scared. I took people to a new realm and afterwards they felt great. Transformed. Moved. Healthy. Cleansed.

I approach art like science. I hypothesize how a set of stimuli will change an environment. I test that hypothesis and get feedback. Analyze and adjust. And always start again.


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