I’ve recently returned from a busy few days travel, which has involved several great opportunities for dissemination of ideas and work developed during the Reality Remix project salons that have been held so far. The research has been invaluable in developing an understanding of V.R. techniques in particular (both their potentials and their limitations).
The main events I attended were the Future Perfect symposium at the Data and Society Institute, a guest lecture at Sleepcenter gallery in collaboration with Ian W. Gouldstone’s first solo show IN THE SHADE BUT NOT THE SHADOW, and a paper given at the Video Games and Literature: Beyond Stereotypes conference at St. Andrews University. All of these events provided considerable food for thought concerning immersive experience – while in New York I also attended the Guggenheim gallery where the “One Hand Clapping” exhibition of work by Chinese artists included a V.R. work by Lin Yilin called “Monad”.
The Future Perfect event brought together practitioners and researchers to discuss speculative ideas (including speculative fiction) and its effect on the present. Papers incorporated creative practice as the wove speculative fiction into their presentation: Ruha Benjamin’s projection of a world in which reparations had become a serious programme through sci-fi technology as much as legal or political tendencies captured the audience as it worked towards a powerful ending and showed that ‘immersive experience’ can still occur without any fancy equipment – well-chosen words and powerful stage presence are more than enough.
I presented a paper – “Where are all the climate change games?” – written with UTS scholar Ben Abraham on climate change and digital games – essentially, asking why there is no videogame version of the genre of ‘climate fiction’ in literature. A key example added in the FP presentation was a reference beyond the digital gaming focus of the published paper, as I drew in Gibson/Martelli’s work “White Island” which presents a remote location threatened with climate change not in the fashion of VR spectacle but as a space of contemplation and loss with a historical index that speaks to the reality of changing climate.
Sleepcenter curator William Lee and Ian Gouldstone invited me to give a presentation riffing on the artist’s striking show that incorporated readymade items and legacy displays (such as a chunky CRT monitor) that serve as material supports for projections that reference early gaming and graphic animation but are in fact procedural constructs that do not loop. The works thus play with the tropes of interactivity (in the gaming references) and the ‘do not touch’ of the installed artwork: immersiveness of the interactable type and the sculptural-installation type, pushing against one another.
My presentation here was actually far more speculative than the one given at the speculative fiction conference, building a conception of the ‘homunculus’ as a type more appropriate than the usual ‘avatar’ figure of complete immersion. This figure is a lot less glorious than the ideal of the avatar and drew largely on the Reality Remix experience with online research salons – VR co-presence as a far more complex set of transformations than a simple immersion within the virtual. The full talk was recorded and I will update soon when it is available.
Finally, the Video Games and Literature conference at the University of St. Andrews brought together researchers working across literary studies and digital gaming. Several papers looked at educational approaches that combine immersive AR-style technology (a la Pokemon Go) with mapping out literary texts from the canon. Unfortunately I didn’t get to spend as much time at this conference as I would have liked due to an unrelated issue, but I did present a paper based on the final chapter of my recent book “Performativity in Art, Literature and Videogames” which presents a theory of nonlinear temporality (and hence narrative, which as noted above has its own capacities for immersive experience). Selected papers from this conference will be part of a special issue of Games & Culture, which offers the possibility of a Reality Remix publication in a good journal.