How VR Is Reconsidering Human Connection, Josie Thaddeus-Johns, δημοσίευση Frieze [8/11/2022]Marilena Pateraki
‘A level of immersion genuinely unlike anything else we have ever encountered.’ That was the promise of the Oculus Rift, as described on its Kickstarter page, which launched ten years ago. The headset seemed poised to revive the 1990s excitement around virtual reality, and was aimed at gamers looking for a new, high-tech gadget – one that would offer an all-encompassing sensory experience. Two years after receiving US$2.5 million in crowdfunding, Oculus was purchased by Facebook for US$2 billion.
Over the last decade, despite technological advances, the aims of the VR industry have barely evolved. Today, immersion is a frequent preoccupation of artists now too, some of whom are now frequently making work with this technology. By replicating the visual qualities of how we see the world, VR is supposed to offer high-fidelity experiences that simulate reality, allowing us to truly feel transported into another place, another body.
At this year’s Venice Biennale, the filmmaker Adina Pintilie took her long-time exploration of intimacy into the world of VR, where she is representing Romania with You Are Another Me: A Cathedral of the Body (2022). Her installation in the Arsenale is based around a suite of fragmented films, which explores sex, desire and fear in excruciating detail. Elsewhere in Venice, at the New Gallery of the Romanian Institute for Cultural and Humanistic Research, the visitor can put on one of three VR headsets, in which these same protagonists appear gathered in a blank white space. When the viewer, holding a controller, touches their hand to the virtual body of one of these characters, they are transported into the character’s naked body and see the world as if from their eyes – what Pintilie describes as a mise en abyme of the Arsenale installation. The search for human connection that preoccupies all of Pintilie’s work becomes startlingly spatial, turning the confronting emotional closeness of her films into a bodily experience.
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