Atelierhaus Droste: VR and the unreliable narration of sight

Produced in collaboration with Matthew Gantt, Atelierhaus Droste is an environment and performance work. The Atelierhaus Droste environment is a palimpsest of the virtual and the material; it is the overlaying of an arranged physical space within the Atelierhaus Australische Botschaft Ost with a correspondent virtual room. The virtual room is designed to imperfectly replicate the actual studio in the Australische Botshaft in VR. An immersed performer experiments with the sensorial, cognitive, and somatic dissonance produced by the differences between a space as represented visually in VR and as material presence.

Atelierhaus Droste was first presented Berlin as VR performance art through two workshops and a dance-for-camera performance. From these two exposition forms, we sought to gather initial observations on how VR’s relationship to material space is experienced through the body. In other words, we discovered that working with VR as art demands not only that we design and perform within a VR environment, but also that we engage in participatory practice and involve audience as participants within the Atelierhaus Droste environment to experience it for themselves.

Atelierhaus Droste particularly foregrounds the way that VR divides visuality from tactility. Within rehearsals for the dance developed through Atelierhaus Droste, I first experienced this fact as I attempted to navigate the dissonance between visual and tactile experience. I rehearsed until I could function with ease in the difference between the two spaces. To do so, I learned to use the visible VR space as a mere representative ‘map’ for the space I actually inhabited. Visible tables and chairs became indices for actual tables and chairs as I learned through my dance in VR to treat my sight not as a sense that could inform me of actual spatial contours, but as a representation whose inexactitudes could – like any other visual information – be learned and thereby read.

Atelierhaus Droste premier at the School for Continual Education

Presentation on Atelierhaus Droste at Performersion / May 3rd