In this post I comment on Illuminating Embodiment: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Relational Architectures.
As far as I can tell, Lozano-Hemmer’s goal is to mess with people — to subvert the experiences of everyday life through surreal interactive installations. I can’t say that I appreciate his work for its aesthetic value, but I can respect his commitment to trolling the audience.
In various installations — Displaced Emperors, Body Movies, under scan — Lozano-Hemmer disorientates the audience by defying their expectations and projecting things where they aren’t supposed to be projected. Displaced Emperors places building interiors on the exterior of a building (and the wrong building interiors at that); Body Movies turns the shadows of participants into a giant silhouette show; and under scan turns those same shadows into video projections of other people.
I find these works interesting because they create experiences of edited reality; that is to say, experiences that are not possible without using technology to transform our perception of the space around us.
VR is a remarkable new avenue for artists to create experiences that are not possible in real life. Although the technology is still in its infancy, it seems to me that most VR work has been focused on replicating reality, when in fact it has vast potential to create experiences that surpass reality.
An example of an artist working in the latter field is Tetsuya Mizuguchi, designer of the video games Rez Infinite and Tetris Effect. These remarkable VR games are as much psychedelic experiences as commercial entertainment.
An example of Tetris Effect gameplay. Remember that the participant is not viewing this on a screen, but experiencing it in VR, as though they were inside the game’s environment.
Lozano-Hemmer’s ideas would translate well into VR. Imagine a VR version of Displaced Emperors where the interiors were not projected imperfectly onto the facade of the Habsburg castle, but were literally inside it, revealed as the stonework peeled away. Imagine a VR version of Body Movies where participants’ shadows became solid monuments which could be physically navigated by other participants. All these experiences are possible in the constructed world of a VR headset. What other impossible realities might be created and experienced this way?