Charades

An exploration of Virtual Reality
What Does VR Mean Socially? 

What is living? How do we qualify an experience? What makes something real? Is exploring a virtual world less of a “real” experience than living out a normal day? Virtual Reality [VR] headsets such as the Oculus allow us to immerse ourselves in alternative realities. These worlds are made with tools like unity and 360Video. As these technologies advance the hyper-real of the virtual begins to challenge what we know as real. A virtual world can be as immersive and convincing to our minds as the one in which we live out the majority of physical lives, leading me to the question: Can reliving be just as valid as living? If so, what does this mean in terms of how we interact with other humans, our space, and our own bodies?

*The score is best viewed on youTube through your phone or a VR headset

Charades is my first step in researching the social implications of living and reliving through the lens of VR. Charades looks at our fascination with highly stimulating yet insular and disembodied experiences. Entering a VR environment we transport our minds to alternate realities in which our bodies no longer exist, leaving our corporeal selves to respond to a different world than the one in which it exists. This cognitive dissonance is most evident when observing someone immersed in a VR world. The experiencer becomes a performer of sorts, a translator of the digital world to the physical. We typically read these translations through their unintentional movements produced by traversing the virtual space. Charades attempts to highlight these reactionary gestures in effort to more vividly translate the virtual world back to physical.

In this instance the performer – Kayrian Gillan was asked to relive and improv to a score of moments from the artist’s life recorded in 360Video. The score is the first translation of the material from the experience and life of the artist into an experience to be had, rather than a memory. The performer was given minimal instruction for her response: she was asked to consciously react to walking through doorways, traveling via bicycle, and fast rotation of the camera. The lack of constraint allows the performer to also experience the virtual space as an audience member. Kayrian as the audience developed an intimate understanding of the score. This intimacy allowed her as the performer to translate aspects of the score previously invisible to the artist, abstracting the information conveyed one step further from its source. This distilled version of the score accompanied by the raw soundscape of the recorded moments was presented as the live performance. Creating an exaggerated representation of the way our social interactions may shift with the growing ubiquity of VR headsets and experiences.

This work was created with humbling support from many talented and exceptionally generous humans:

 

Kayrian Gillan – dancer (live performance & research)

Bryce Clarke– traceur (filming & research)

Jeremy Spyder-Thomas Gallant  – traceur (filming & research)

Robin Friend Stift – acrobat (filming & research)

Nate Buchsbaum– dancer/acrobat/tricker (filming & research)

Jake Warren – dancer/acrobat/tricker (filming & research)

Califf Guzman– dancer/acrobat/tricker (filming & research)

Stacie Rathbone  – acrobat/dancer (research)

Kat Sullivan – dancer (research)

Justin Peake – Improvisational musician (research)

Alex Hernandez – breakdancer (filming & research)

Alex Holguin – breakdancer (filming & research)

Koji Nishiyama– performer/acrobat (filming)

Meshach Rojas – tricker (research)

Diane Tomasi– aerialist (research)

Danielle Butler – aerialist (filming & research)

 

And many others I don’t personally know. Thank you all.

Technical aspects:

VR Headset: Samsung Gear VR with Samsung Galaxy 6

Footage: Ricoh Theta M15 & Ricoh Theta S

Sound: connects via bluetooth

Space: 15’ x 10’ denoted tactility.

Process

Charades was created by recording 360Videos on the Ricoh Theta cameras, Fly360 and Gopro 360 rig, then introducing them to the Samsung Gear VR. The work included documenting the artist life; she is an aerialist, a student and a teacher. She leveraged these experiences and network in creating a work that reflected her eclectic passions.

Working with Kayrian Gillan, we learned a lot about what aspects were narratively significant enough to respond to and which ones left the audience confused. This was also the point of gaining feed back on the desire for an auditory component.

 

Kayrian also expressed a strong preference for moving via floor work, responding to simple motions and a higher quality of film.

Working with Kat Sullivan was my first experiment in asking a person to move while immersed in another world. She was great at it, but expressed fear around falling, hitting a wall or getting hit by another person. At this moment I decided the piece should only involve one dancer at a time, for this iteration anyways.

Collecting moments, I started with recording movements from the perspective of the performer, soon to realize that it was very disorienting to be carried around by someone. I then dabbled with recording from a fixed position allowing people to interact with the camera’s spatial perception. Later I continued to simplify by recording simple movements like walking and biking.

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