THIS COULD BE YOU. Disembodiment in Virtual Reality Art

Artworks by Claire Hentschker (US), Jessy Jetpacks (ARE/UK), Martina Menegon (IT/AUT), Zeesy Powers (US)

Curated by Peggy Schoenegge (peer to space)

At: Overkill Festival Enschede, The Netherlands, 2018

Duration: November 23 - 25, 2018

Claire Hentschker,  Merch Mulch , 2017, VR experience © the artist

Claire Hentschker, Merch Mulch, 2017, VR experience © the artist

Today we communicate via several digital applications, and present our identity on the Internet. Social VR enables us to meet our friends’ avatars in a virtual space independently from our body’s actual place. Thus being evocative of the plot of the Sci-Fi movie Matrix (1999), in which the physical body stays in a bunk while the consciousness acts in a virtual place.

Martina Menegon,  all around me are familiar faces , 2018, VR experience © the artist

Martina Menegon, all around me are familiar faces, 2018, VR experience © the artist

 In 1991, Hans Moravec wrote in his essay 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. By transferring the mind to a technological medium the body would becomes insignificant. As a result human beings would not be embodied and their existence would not depend on biological mortality anymore. Consequently human beings would become immortal.

Jessy Jetpacks,  Can Our Bodies Still Remember , 2017, VR experience © the artist

Jessy Jetpacks, Can Our Bodies Still Remember, 2017, VR experience © the artist

With recent technological progress Moravec’s idea no longer seems completely absurd. Virtual Reality (VR) as a technological and artistic medium enables users to experience disembodiment. The exhibition THIS COULD BE YOU. Disembodiment in Virtual Reality Art is dedicated to the feeling of incorporeality. The title refers to Zeesy Powers’ eponymous VR artwork, in which the user inhabits the body of an old woman. Over the course of time the body of the old woman becomes the body of the user. Entering a virtual world allow users to immerse themselves in a completely different place without a physical body. There, users can be everyone and everything. Feeling present in the virtual space, makes them forget about their bodies in reality.

Zeesy Powers,  This Could Be You , 2017, VR experience © the artist

Zeesy Powers, This Could Be You, 2017, VR experience © the artist

VR experiences implicate future living scenarios but also reflect the current state of our society and its relation to technology. Claire Hentschker shows a deserted world without any humans. While reflecting the presence, her work gives an impression of what a disembodied future of formerly inhabited places could look like. Jessy Jetpacks plays with the re-embodiment in the virtual room and questions wether our bodies have a memory and if such an experience has consequences. Martina Menegon and Zeesy Powers also confront the users with bodies that are not theirs. While Menegon provides her 3D scanned face as a mask-like object, the users interact with; Powers mirrors the user as a 90 years old woman. By doing so, they create a vision of what life with an immaterial body could be like and what it might or might not feel like.

THIS COULD BE YOU. Disembodiment in Virtual Reality Art is part of the Overkill Festival 2018 in Enschede (NL). The festival regroups art, games, movies and performances and opens a new discourse.

All artists are co-presented by radiancevr.co.

Press reviews: Tubantia, November 22, 2018, Tubantia, November 23, 2018, Isabel Arvers