Virtual Reality

Virtual ISLANDS: Submersion and Hybrid Identity in Virtual Reality

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Immersivité et innovations technologiques recently featured Franco-Jamaican multimedia artist Olivia Mc Gilchrist and her research project.

Here is an excerpt (transcribed by Peter Jordens) from the video: “[Olivia Mc Gilchrist’s PhD research-creation] project is titled ‘Virtual ISLANDS: Submersion and Hybrid Identity in Virtual Reality.’ It combines a written thesis with virtual reality (VR) and video installation, tying together the relationship between Caribbean futures as an alternative to western technofuturism and the possibility of submersion as a postcolonial stance within VR-making practice. It is grounded in the violent histories of Transatlantic slave trades and it juxtaposes the notions of Black Atlantic by Paul Gilroy and tidalectics by Kamau Brathwaite to formulate a notion of border as a historical space within VR creation.”

DESCRIPTION (by Immersivité et innovations technologiques):

Olivia Mc Gilchrist (she / her) is a white French-Jamaican multimedia artist and researcher exploring how colonial legacies extend their reach to Virtual Reality (VR) technology. She has exhibited in Canada, Jamaica, the USA, Brazil, Germany, Norway, Austria, France, Switzerland, and the UK. Building on her experience as a white Euro-Caribbean, and past research in the portrayal of her hybrid identity within contemporary Jamaican culture, Olivia explores how this can be represented in VR. Her Individualized Ph.D. research-creation project borrows critical tools from Feminist studies, Black studies and Postcolonial Caribbean studies in order to offer a framework for the aesthetic experience of VR immersion figuratively and literally.

Submersion / Immersion / Presence & Embodiment in Virtual Reality (VR) experiences and artists’ multimedia installation

In the proliferation of experiments with the medium, which experiences achieve meaningful immersion and is VR the most appropriate platform for the content presented? Immersive systems developed by artists, scientists and the entertainment industries from earlier experiments to recent projects can offer a meaningful insight into current developments within VR. Canadian cognitive scientist Dr. Kimberly Voll highlights a ‘Virtual confusion’ (Voll, 2014) between immersion, submersion and presence, in discussions surrounding VR’s recent advances. She describes the experience of being in VR as submersive, which can make use of presence on the road towards immersion, and VR’s physical submersion is generally conducive to achieving presence and immersion-simply by wearing the HMD. This notion of submersion is particularly interesting when studying Canadian new media pioneer Char Davies’ Osmose (1995), a VR experience requiring the ‘immersant’ to use her breath as a navigation tool (‘immersant’ is Davies’ preferred term for user). Twenty-five years later, much lighter and less costly systems are available to a wider audience.

This presentation will explore the intersections of multi-media and socially engaged arts practices in North-America and Europe. First, I will define the forms of immersion I am focusing on within selected Virtual Reality experiences: what is experienced through this medium which could not be felt in another? Can the latest technologists, documentarians and entertainers predict what audiences are feeling through this medium which is branded as an “empathy machine?” (Bailenson). Secondly, I will review the affordances of immersive and embodied technologies for artworks and VR experiences informed by alternative forms of sense perception, circular time and opaque space (Llenin-Figueroa), and “Creolization and Technopoetics”’ (Chude-Sokei) through technological mediums.


Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button