Exclusive Realities

Exclusive Realities

posted in: AR, Social VR | 0

I made three videos this week and I want to talk about them.

The first was ‘Self Frottage with Light’ in which I used TiltBrush, a VR painting app from Google, to manually 3D scan myself. I used the mirror function, intended for making symmetrical drawings, much like a physical world mirror. I sat on the floor in front of it so I could see my body from the outside. In the beginning of the video there is nothing there, nothing to reflect.  My body is invisible. But as I slowly rub the controller over the surface of my skin I become visible in the mirror.



My body, or at least this drawn shell of it, seems like a bubble blown up from the surface of the floor. I immediately thought of this experiment by Ann Hamilton casting her breath in a thin layer of soap stretched between two strings. She described it as the “breath being made palpably visually present.” And present is the whole point here. I am trying to figure out how physically tracked immersion interacts with my body. What does it mean to introduce embodiment to a space with has up to this point been conceptualized and built as a space of knowledge. Machines built to do logical operations networked on an ‘information superhighway’ are now being retooled and resensored to touch us, watch us, feel our movements and learn our spaces.

I want to write a more in depth post about how the human sensory-motor system and how its peculiarities gave rise to our particular system of reason and how all that relates to embodiment in immersive computational systems but ain’t nobody got time for that right now soooo……. on to the next video!

The second video I made this week was ‘Watching ‘Pretending to be on The Moth.’’ I was listening to the KALW podcast Crosscurrents, a local Bay Area news, arts and culture program, when I heard an interview with Corey Rosen. Rosen is the host of the Moth StorySLAM, an improvised storytelling open mic in San Francisco. For some reason it got under my skin so I abandoned the sculpture I was working on and ran upstairs to grab Lenny (yes we named one of our HoloLens’ Lenny… the other one is Holly). I strapped it to my head, started recording, and improvised a story about myself. I talked about my disability and losing my memory and the human vs technological aides I use to deal with it before running to the bathroom to show the camera my face half hidden by the dark bowl of the HoloLens. It was an attempt to contrast visually the consequences of both assistive methods: with technology and without.



But “Watching ‘Pretending to be on The Moth’” is a bit more still. Because the video I published online is not the one I recorded during the improvisation but instead one of me watching that video in the HoloLens in the room it was made in. I got this idea while watching Steve, my husband and test audience for basically everything, watch the video. He was in our livingroom in the HoloLens glancing around the room as the me in the video did the same. It was amazing to watch. The video became part of the room it was made in, influencing and interacting with all of the holograms that it itself included. I realized that the watch context was an integral part of the video but since I can’t currently invite all yall to my living room (until I have working virtual copy that syncs to my HoloLens making my house a visitable installation space in VR…again another post) I decided publish as close as I could get: recording myself watching the video in the HoloLens.

The last video is ‘Installing sculpture at SFMOMA.’ About 12 hours after finishing previous video at 2 am, I decided this whole putting infinitely digitally reproducible holograms in exclusive contexts thing was fun times and needed exploring. I wired up a Unity app and walked myself over to SFMOMA.



I love art museums. Even with all their “Look more work by more white dudes!” problems and their “Digital works that are not just a video on screen are real hard.” problems I can’t help but love them. I want to change art museums. I want my work to be in art museums. So I put my art in the museum. This kind of takeover of museum space has been done before. ‘We AR in MOMA’ used phones and GPS to add a virtual layer to the MOMA in New York but whoa nelly is the HoloLens a better way to do thing kind of thing.

So ‘Installing sculpture at SFMOMA’ and ‘Watching ‘Pretending to be on The Moth’’ are a diptych then about the vestiges of exclusivity: one borrowing the aura and space of a public place where I am welcome for a fee but my art is not, while the other excludes you because it is my private home. Both videos are attempts to share with you a version of the original experience of seeing the thing in the context I choose for them knowing it is as close as I can get you to the real thing. But the spaces aren’t the only component contributing to the layered privilege, the hardware is just as rarified. And just like walking around playing PokemonGo in a city with huge income disparity and thus uneven access to mobile phones crisps the edges of the otherwise unfelt digital divide, these two videos play with who gets to see what and where.