Synchronous Reality: Place and Memory in Virtual Installation
Bailey, David Evans
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This practice-led research reanimates my own place-based memories; placing participants in an immersive installation to conjure sensorial recollections, both physical and virtual. Visual, aural, kinesthetic, tactile and olfactory perceptual encounters draw the audience into memories of particular interior spaces past. The research asks how personal experiences, in particular intimacy and solitude, can be evoked and intensified in a virtual space, over a duration of time. The term Synchronous Reality was developed to describe the simultaneity of multiple spaces and temporalities in a coherent virtual and physical installation that generates poetic-sensory interactions. Through a series of installation events using the HTC Vive technology in gallery, lab and theatrical sites, I have explored the feeling of ‘being there’, through embodied experience. The primary methodology is autoethnographic, including creative stages of self-reflection, diaristic entries, photography and animation. I consider the kinds of intensive art experiences that can be generated through emergent VR technologies, at the interface between physical objects and virtual rooms, or psychological landscapes. The confined interior of a caravan has become a key figure where virtual objects conjoin with their physical counterparts in an installation form. The research has expanded to consider whether a sense of intimacy could also be fostered in audiences to bring about a connection with their own past. Through focus groups and interviews this study investigates whether a recreated, personal memory in an immersive artwork could also resonate with participants and, in turn, allow them to recall their own place-based narratives. Philosophers explored by the practice suggest that we can relive our daydreams; synchronous reality in art practice indeed revives my own memories, yet the research also indicates that embodied, durational encounters with virtual spaces can evoke place-based memories in others.