Face-to-(inter)face, a VR DEN

Face-to-(inter)face posits that the most interesting thing about Virtual Reality is people’s reactions to experiencing a different world for the first time. When their senses enter the new space, they forget spatial relationships and express an entirely unique and subjective body language. VR Den places that transformative physical experience under a spotlight by utilizing performers with high kinesthetic/proprioceptive awareness: a contractor, belly dancer, sculptor, aerialist, jeweler, and tradesmen — people who understand and utilize their body in a fundamentally kinetic way. The performers’ articulate physical expressions of child-like wonder and joy upon first experiencing this subjective reality activates empathy, and transforms the virtual into something viscerally human.

Participants/Spectators are blindfolded, placed on an office chair, and pushed chaotically through an open warehouse, twisted and turned in their chair, until they arrive at the performance space. This combination of sensory deprivation and physical jostling activates their kinesthetic sense, making them more aware of their bodies and the space they inhabit. Furthermore, this disorienting activity also produces a feeling of vulnerability, which prompts the participants to sympathize with the performers. Additionally, the initial participants/spectators of the project are tech industry insiders. What this means is that Face-to-(inter)face provides an opportunity for those creating VR worlds to witness the embodied joy of human-computer interfacing.

The space is a true den, a dark and slightly foreboding space decorated with bolts of hanging cloth to evoke a sumptuous, illicit gathering place. Once all of the participants arrive, the performers don Google cardboard headsets and enter into a VR realm. Their relationship with this virtual space manifests in observing how these finely tuned bodies react to the displacement and dislocation that occurs when jacking in to VR. Both conscious and unconscious articulations express an implicit bridge between worlds, in an un-choreographed dance that grounds the wonder and awe of the virtual frontier in the human body.