Never Here, Always There is a deconstructed virtual reality environment: an immersive abstract space that examines the notion of virtual reality as a purely ‘private’ or disconnected space, instead inviting opportunities for intimate connections between strangers. Rather than using a traditional VR headset, visitors are invited into a room surrounded by projectors and are outfitted with wireless headphones and a translucent plastic mask that completely blocks their field of vision. The mask, which hovers several centimeters away from the face, becomes a 360° projection screen when illuminated by the surrounding projectors. Intense soundscapes in synchronicity with abstract line, color, and texture projections submerge the audience into a pure field of light and sound. Placed into individual rows separated by handrails, audience members can wander back and forth, exploring and interacting with the audiovisual experience. These shared handrails serve two purposes: to give each audience member their own space, but also to act as the gateway between the physical and virtual world, becoming the connective tissue within which audience members inevitably interact through the touching of hands. By deconstructing the apparatus of the VR headset into disparate elements, the work allows the visitor to enter the virtual space, physically. As such, each audience member becomes an integral part of the VR experience, casting shadows into other visitor’s immersive space, touching each other, and breaking the “fourth wall” of virtual reality. These jarring yet intimate moments between strangers breaks through the immersive, injecting communal experience into the ‘private’ virtual.
Never Here, Always There has been presented as a work-in-progress, and accidental discoveries into the nature of immersion have led to the current proposal. Initially, audience members were invited to wander freely in a room full of projections, but I discovered people were hesitant to wander in an unfamiliar room while masked. Installing handrails quickly became an essential part of the work as the rails provided a sense of spatial security, which gave them confidence. Seemingly contradictory, a more solid grounding in the physical world allowed audiences to engage and immerse themselves more readily in the virtual world. In this proposed version of Never Here, Always There, I am interested in this grounding as not just a space of security, but as a space within which to explore the nature of security and the possibilities of physical connection within the virtual. By creating an almost womblike VR experience, but with these points of disruption, the work is able to question the ways in which we give trust and experience virtual reality.
ABOUT DORON SADJA
Doron Sadja is an American artist and electronic musician whose work explores modes of perception and the experience of sound, light, and space. “Difficult, powerful, intense and delicate – all at the same time” Sadja stages epic performance works that immerse the audience into a futuristic landscape of pure sound and light. At times bordering on painful, at other times like bathing in a sea of lush harmonies, Sadja melds pristine electronic tones with romantic synthesizers and dark noise to construct hyper-emotive sonic architecture. Although each of Sadja’s works are striking in their singular and focused approach, his output is diverse: spanning everything from 250 speaker Wave Field Synthesis works to kinetic sound sculptures capable of moving sound and light in 3 dimensions, blindfolded light projection pieces, and large scale immersive sound and light environments.
Sadja has performed and exhibited throughout Europe and the US, including Atonal Festival and Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, PS1 MoMa Museum in NYC, Norberg Festival in Sweden, and the Institute for Electronic Music and Acoustics in Austria. Sadja has collaborated with Tony Conrad, Aki Onda, Audrey Chen, Nenad Popov, and Mario Diaz de Leon amongst others.