Accepted Paper:

Short-circuit me! Reflections on viewing and sensing in the context of VR/AR/MR installations  


Paolo S. H. Favero (University of Antwerp)
E.L. Theunissen (University of Antwerp)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the short-circuit between mind and body in the context of contemporary Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) projects.

Paper long abstract:

Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) are today taking the world of arts and filmmaking with a storm. Promising the entrance into a world of immersion, such practices are conventionally addressed through notions of embodiment and presence. With this paper, and through the focus on the MR installation Draw Me Close and the VR documentary Notes on Blindness, we wish to critically explore the possible engagements taking place in such worlds, suggesting that it is actually the transcendence of the physical dimension of our bodies that make VR/AR/MR into meaningful experiences. Foregrounding the viewer's/senser's sense of (dis)embodied awareness, such works tend to offer a short circuit between the physical and the virtual. Draw Me Close inserts a live actor touching and interacting with the viewer within an algorithmic virtual space, and portrays the director's childhood memories of his deceased mother. Notes on Blindness establishes a similarly disconcerting dialectic between the physical and virtual by deliberately disintegrating the viewers' body and by having them sense a world without sight. Challenging the separation between two bodies (the physical and the virtual), this piece foregrounds the potential of such technologies and techniques to offer an experience of simultaneous co-existence in two separate regimes of truth. The presentation further addresses the methodological challenges that the ethnographic study of such worlds entail.

Panel P019
Art (and anthropology) beyond materiality and representation