The Visit, realistic simulation of a reality that already exists
Interactive Video Installation and VR, ~17min, 2019
UNSW felt Experience and Empathy Lab (fEEL)
The Visit is an interactive real-time video installation (also adapted for VR), developed from a ground-breaking research project conducted by artists and psychologists working with women living with dementia. Visitors are invited to sit with Viv, a life-sized, photorealistic animated character whose dialogue is created largely from verbatim interviews, drawing us into a world of perceptual uncertainty, while at the same time confounding stereotypes and confronting fears about dementia.
Like the women who co-created her, Viv experiences various dementia-related symptoms, including hallucinations and confabulation (unconscious fabrication as means of making sense of information). She is also insightful and reflective. Viv is living a life and coming to terms with a neurological change.
The interactive video is sensitive to the motions of the viewer so that Viv is ‘aware of’ and responds to your presence in her home but the piece invites quiet attentiveness rather than the kind of interaction characteristic of gaming. Sit with and listen to Viv without judgement, irritation, pity or despair, finding a way into her world.
The characterisation has scientific validity but also the qualities of a rich, emotion-driven film narrative. The point of the work is to draw the viewer into the emotional/perceptual world of Viv. The character appears life-sized on a vertical screen. Individual viewers will take a seat in front of Viv as if joining her for tea (the interactive is sensitive to the motions of the viewer so Viv is ‘aware’ of and responds to their presence). An immersive soundscape will create the impression for the viewer of being ‘inside’ Viv’s hallucinated world at some points.