Eternal Humans Disembodiment in Virtual Reality
With: Claire Hentschker (US) Martina Menegon (IT/AUT) Zeesy Powers (US) Tamiko Thiel (US/DE)
In 1991, Hans Moravec wrote in his publication The Universal Robot that the human body is disused and won’t be necessary in our future anymore. He said it would be possible to download one’s consciousness to a computer, and by transferring the mind on a technological medium the body would becomes insignificant. As humans would not be fleshly embodied, their existence would become dependent on technique, and human beings would become immortal. Virtual Reality (VR) as a technological and artistic medium enables user to experience disembodiment the way Moravec described it. Entering a virtual world allow users to immerse in a completely different place without their physical bodies. This feeling of presence in VR makes them forget about their physical bodies in reality and thus gives a feeling of disembodiment. Connected to the technological development, whole societies at a time become discarnate, detached from mere bodily or physical reality. As a result, human beings would then become rather a concept than a physical presence. Social VR spaces will soon enable us to meet our friend’s avatars online independently from our body’s actual place. Thus being evocative of the plot of the ́Sci-Fi movie Matrix (1999), where the physical body stays in a bunk while the consciousness acts in a virtual place. VR implicates future living scenarios, but also reflects on the current state of our society and its relation to technology. Claire Hentschker shows a deserted world without any humans and, while reflecting the presence, gives an impression of how a disembodied future of formerly inhabited places could look like. Martina Menegon and Zeesy Powers confront the user with bodies that are not theirs. While Menegon provides her own body, the user can interact with; Powers mirrors the user as a 90 years old woman. Tamiko Thiel shows a society that is strongly connected to a technology that seems to prevent an actual social interaction. These four artists create models for a disembodied state of the user and reflect the relationship between technology, society, and its future.
The technological and social framework around contemporary VR is simultaneously an infinite landscape and a prison. It has the aesthetics and rhetoric of infinity (you can be anyone, anywhere, doing anything), but practices of confinement (restricted mobility, limited access, embedded surveillance). In This Could Be You, users inhabit the body of a 90-year-old woman, trapped in an environment raining trash from the digital era. Her actions are mirrored in her twin, stripped of clothing. Live motion capture through a Kinect allows the user to interact with the experience without the use of controllers. Powers’ work gives the user the opportunity to experience the feeling of being in a different body and not being bound to the own.
Claire Hentschker (lives and works in Pittsburgh) Merch Mulch 2017 Mobile VR
Claire Hentschker works with film stills, which she puts together forming a subjective map of former places. Hentschker’s piece Merch Mulch portrays a three-dimensional photogrammetric amalgamation of abandoned shopping malls, digitally reconstructed from YouTube videos taken prior to the sites’ destruction. Once places of entertainment and bustling activity, these malls now appear deserted. Hentschker creates a room in which the user, although familiar with these places, is confronted with an unreal. As Moravec imagined, in a disembodied world won’t be physical corpuses anymore. As a result places like shopping malls will change and become bodiless places. Consequently these places become an image of a former time when humans physically met at an actual place.
In Land of Cloud people are silent. They communicate not through speech, gesture or gaze, but instead through strange and wondrous “cloud mirrors.” These devices keep them in constant contact with their deity, The Cloud, in whose image they are created – their bodies composed of softly billowing clouds. The Land of Cloud is a beautiful garden, but the Cloud People are oblivious to their surroundings. They stare into their devices, motionless, spellbound by whispers from The Cloud. They claim they pray to the same deity, but The Cloud tells each only what they want to hear – stirring statements from leaders of their conflicting sects. Land of Cloud visualizes how we are already related and dependent on technology, and makes the role of identity in a technologized world a subject of discussion.
Mattis Dovier is a french illustrator and animator living in Paris who likes to explore the relation between music and visuals in a dark and playful way with particular reference to early internet aesthetics, manga and contemporary gif culture.
plug your nose and try to hum is a VR installation in which the user is surrounded by floating miniature bodies – 3D Scans of the artist’s body – that can be hit, grabbed, stretched and tossed around. Using the controllers, which also function as light sources, it is possible to freely interact with the artist’s 3d scanned body that randomly spawns around the scene, humming in various pitches. These virtual bodies propose a synthetic corporeality, evoking a sense of uncanniness due to the blurring of the split between real and virtual, flesh and data. They are perceivable digital representation, something that can be sensed and felt despite their virtual nature. In times of disembodiment the image of a body becomes important. The image itself gives the user a chance to deal with bodies in a way which wont be possible in reality.
Iris van der Meule
I am an animation student at AKV St. Joost. I like to experiment with all kinds of animation but lately I am really interested and playing with virtual reality, mixed with storytelling. I like to tackle engaged topics but I also make animations just to make you laugh.
Danse Macabre – video installation
Enclosed in a spherical world we travel simultaneously in three different points both models, but miniature and gigantic at the same time. The scenes represented by the model are ghostly and immobile vestiges of the medieval iconography which are deformed, transformed and destroyed to finally reborn. The meeting of three disproportionates human skulls, vanities, triggers perturbation up to chaos. Skeletons dance to announce this change. A cycle of continual construction and deconstruction takes place.