tigop-Looking Outwards 05

Being at Weird Reality really allowed me to see both the possibilities as well as the limitations of Virtual Reality. A piece that I got to spend a lot of time with was Jeremy Bailey’s piece called Preterna. It was a piece in which the viewer became part of a commercial, and was able to experience “a stage before pregnancy”, the stage in which an individual is contemplating pregnancy. In the background, you are able to hear Jeremy and his wife, Kristen, bickering over whether or not they wanted to have a child. Jeremy had included 3D scans of his wife in the environment which was created in the piece, and the viewer is able to invade one of the 3D scans, taking over the body and manipulating severed arms which seem to float in the air (this had been achieved through the use of a motion detector placed on the Oculus Rift). The way the viewer steps into the 3D scan raises a question as to whether or not this individual is truly able to empathize with one who is pregnant- all while they are not actually able to experience all the other physical symptoms associated with pregnancy, such as shortness in breath, fatigue, morning sickness (though VR may very well make the nausea accessible), frequent need to urinate, etc. How do we make all these other sensory experiences accessible in the environment which can be created through VR? Talking to Jeremy, it had been made clear that the viewer was not truly supposed to be able to empathize with one who is pregnant, and they are in fact playing a more parasitic role in the invasion of this pregnant woman’s body, participating in a more exploitative role within the commercial. I had spoken to a pregnant woman who tried on the rift, and she said something that stuck with me: “When you step into someone’s shoes, you only take their shoes.” You are never going to fully experience what it is like to be a particular individual because as much as you might know about them, you will never truly know what it felt like to come out of the circumstances that they came out of and to feel the things that they feel. This idea of exploiting the pregnant female body and lacking a connection to who this individual is is a very cynical view on the idea of commercialism and possibly even a critique on commercialism within the health sector. I had a lot of fun working that night.