BSP Conference

“Being, the Gallery and Virtual Reality:
An artist’s take on building immersive artworks”


Dreyfus was right when he told computer scientists they were wrong during the first wave of virtual reality (VR). While technology companies continue to turn to cold, hard, objective, neuroscience to ‘trick’ the body into a sense of immersion, the recent resurgence of VR has also seen a wider acknowledgement of the body and the increased prevalence of phenomenology in discussions about VR. We may no longer be dreaming that extropian dream in quite the same way anymore, but we’re making artworks in and for virtual reality with a-whole-new approach.
Through practice-led research into the making, and recreating, of sculptural artworks, I have found it more meaningful to draw on the aesthetic tradition and art theory – from Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and Benjamin, up to contemporary thinkers like Noë and Paterson. As a sculptor I work in 3D space, rather than as a 2D image maker, and have found aesthetics that relies too heavily on the visual has left me questioning. Here I focus on two of my artworks that were made with movement, touch and atmosphere very much in mind. Both were designed to be experienced in an art gallery setting, within all the traditions that entails, by interacting via the HTC Vive headset and moving within the artwork at life-scale. The mixed reality piece Being-in-the-Gallery explored embodiment of the immersive experience and the aura of the virtual art object – with the viewer-participant invited to touch an original sculpture while seeing it veiled in a virtual copy. In Virtual Halls I was commissioned to remake an artwork by the late video artist David Hall in VR, leading to questions of authenticity in the methodology, preservation and experience. The line of my argument shows the passage of my engagement with a number of philosophers and how they continue to influence my practise.

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