From the moment I put the headset on, I’m transported to somewhere. At first, I’m not too sure of where that somewhere is, and it takes me a moment to get my bearings, which is more difficult than I expect. We’re used to seeing screens – phones, televisions – and being able to turn our heads and attention away from them, but in a virtual world, when you turn, all you see is more of the world, and that’s what makes VR so hypnotic and beautiful. I think that we’ve reached a technological high point in achieving complete visual and auditory immersion, and I couldn’t be more excited to see where this technology takes us next.
The world is more familiar than I realise, and I start to understand what I’m looking at: grass, hills, sky; I’m outside, somewhere. I can’t quite figure out what’s beneath me, or what’s caused the ground to become so dark, but as I become more comfortable with the new world I’m in, I understand it better. I’m looking at the scars we’ve made on the earth from mining and extracting materials.
The landscape feels as if it’s mourning something, which makes sense: it’s missing part of itself, its identity. I wasn’t expecting to feel this way about a landscape, especially one that I was experiencing through VR.
Perhaps what’s most ironic about the piece is that Coy uses technology capable to show us anything, and he shows us an empty world. It’s a striking way of using VR, and shows us that VR is exactly what it says it is: virtual.
When I take off the headset, the world stops existing – or at least, stops existing in front of me – and I’m back in the gallery. In my mind, I’m still there and still thinking about how damaged the landscape is. There’s a real power in the rise of VR technology and art – it can immerse us entirely, take us to new places, leave us with nothing, but most importantly, leave us thinking.
Substance – A whole history of hollows and reliefs is available to experience in FACT's Gallery 2 throughout the current exhibition The New Observatory. You can find out more about the exhibition and artworks here.