Drylab2023, an experiment in “immersive learning,” was conducted from May 13-June 11, 2017. Eight participants lived for 30 days in a remote desert outpost limited to 4 gallons of water per person per day to meet all water needs (drinking, cooking, washing, hygiene, etc) while subsisting on a water-wise diet. Participants were charged to live within a “near future scenario” of water scarcity (2023); modelling how to manage a limited vital resource: fresh water. During the experiment, narrative progress could be tracked as it unfolded through online posts at drylab2023.net.
This article argues that: 1) speculative performance is a powerful form of knowledge creation that can prefigure and manifest alternate ways of living with climate change; 2) the participants, scenario, environmental stage, and audience collaboratively produced the performance; 3) through performance – an embodied form of knowledge – the participants came to understand what it means to live water-wise; and 4) the use of the speculative (the narrative frame of 2023) allowed participants to reflect on the past and present as well as imagine the future.