Saturday, January 14, 2012
Notes on the Narrative of Virtual Reality
“The virtual is beyond photographic. The image is not recalled; rather we re-sense the intensities of experience. Virtuality, vitality, virtuosity is embedded and distributed like a rash of scarlet fever under my skin.”--Melinda Rackham, “They are reality”, The Australian Journal of Virtual Art
Enter my semi-permeable body, pliable. I register the colors of multi-colored, papel picado flags that hang across la plaza, and the brick pathways below my feet. I hang back momentarily to hear the quiet, to breath my presence in. I am both here and there. There, surrounded by blue sky, cobbled pathways, art and music. The distant sound of a hummingbird. Here, in my room of blank walls and mismatched coverlets and scattered clothes. There, I am dressed like Spring. My flowing skirt, the color of peaches, graze my legs, my short-sleeved shirt is tight across my waist. Here, I wear sweat pants and an old t-shirt, and I am wrapped in a worn-out shawl to keep the cold at bay. If I stand in this virtual space a bit longer, I will surrender to the potential pleasure of this virtual cartography. I will reach ambiguity--the space where art is born, where reality and memory are blurred. I breathe. Wait. I am present now.
I reach my arms to the sky and I fly across a blue sky. Below me is the ocean, a sprinkle of buildings, and the cafe where I’ve held poetry readings and workshops for the past year and a half. This virtual world, intended for collaboration, entertainment and education, has served our group of writers well. The engaging surroundings of La Placita and the hacienda-style buildings, artwork and music exhibitions feel like something out of our memory, or the stories of our elders, or the pueblos we’ve visited in Mexico, or lived in across the U.S. borderlands. As I fly pass La Placita, I am reminded of San Elizario, Texas, one of the first presidios in Texas established in 1789. The setting evokes a real feeling of nostalgia in me and a need to write about my abuela. I stop flying and sit in a familiar spot outside the Sin Fronteras Cafe, and I begin to write. I am present now.
Dr. Frank Biocca writes in his essay, “The Evolution of Interactive Media Towards “Being There” in Non-Linear Narrative Worlds”, that the virtual world has altered the narrative space. He states that “the original narrative medium was the body and the spoken word.” With the advent of new technologies, “the narrative virtual environments are now...the leading edge vehicle for artistic expression in our culture.” The Smithsonian LVM is perhaps one of the best spaces where artistic expression has thrived since its conception. The space has played a role in “expanding our experience of other lives, other spaces, and other ways of being.” (Biocca). Upon entering this space, the user whether artist, writer, musician or visitor, becomes a participant. He or she becomes the conductor. The director of his/her virtual destiny. Dreams and reality become a blur. The immersion and sensory-rich experiences, such as writing, reading poetry, performing music in a world outside of our real world is transformative. For a brief second, the outside world, my blank walls and unmade bed is diminished. The virtual cartography evokes real feelings of nostalgia, excitement and peace. A real sense of “being there" in a virtual space that is no longer virtual but feels real. I am filled with emotion as I write a poem about memory. My senses are alive. Biocca writes that virtual environments should be designed to create experiences and "moments when our awareness of the medium disappears and we are pushed through the medium to sensations that approach direct experience." I believe Smithsonian LVM has created such space-- a space where artists, writers and musicians can gather to tap into the sense of being inside a narrative space.
Biocca, Frank. “The Evolution of Interactive Media Towards “Being There” in Non-Linear Narrative Worlds.” 11/4/01.