A room within which the computer can control the existence of matter, 2017
HD, Stereo sound, 10’21”
Cinematography: Orestis Lambrou
Actress, location: Emma Hunt
Music, Audio, FX, Edit: the artist
With Thanks to: Emma Hunt, James Irwin
The film A room within which the computer can control the existence of matter* considers the potentiality of digital experience in re-forming how we understand our own human body. It combines research on ‘corporeal schema’; embodiment tests within virtual reality; and tactics within contemporary virtual phantom limb therapy. This film weaves therapeutic methods with technology to explore a figure caught an alternate reality without a body - one which requires learning sense and make sense of the world in new ways. The almost disembodied protagonist is supported through online, virtual support, which is informed from Harris’ research and uses actual questionnaires. More information is available about they key themes are at the bottom of this page.
*The title of the video work is a quote by Ivan Sutherland,1965 (creator of the first virtual reality machine).
3 min preview
This film was first an interactive film for an online exhibiton with Space In Between, curated by James Irwin, and exists in a screening, and now primary, version shown here.
‘Corporeal schema’ accounts for the body’s capacity to be open to, and intertwined with the world, enabling the integration or incorporation of seemingly ‘external’ objects into our corporeal activities (Grosz, 1995), such as smart phones, computer keyboards, the ability to drive a car, and the well known example of a blind man’s cane (Merlau-Ponty 1962). The experience of one’s corporeal schema is not fixed or rigid, but adaptable to the myriad of tools and technologies that may be embodied. It further reinforces the phenomenological claim that our body is not limited by the boundaries of our skin, but rather we are always open to and intertwined with the world - and where external objects can become part of our phenomenological body.
Early research into embodiment within virtual reality (Jaron Lanier, 1985) used a head-mounted visual display and glove (iconic components of VR). Through this they placed volunteers within ‘avatar bodies’ unfamiliar to the human form, with additional legs and arms; legs and arms in switched positions; limbs extended in length to extreme conditions; and finally even as lobsters. The results were remarkable - there was a surprisingly small learning curve for the volunteers in
adapting to the new and alien avatar forms via learning new methods of body control in delicate turns of the wrist, or ankle, and reducing movement force by half. Further to this, by the end of the experiment volunteers had more control over their alien avatar forms then that of an avatar considered true to a human body.
Contemporarily similar methods have manifested in Virtual Phantom Limb Therapy (VPLT), where an amputee patient is fitted with simple sensors on their stump, and through a monitor with a camera that captures the patients present form, the virtual limb is overlaid and is fully responsive the patients movements. In this way the patient is able to re-experience their missing limb and learn to control the associated phantom pain. In essence the brain accepts a virtual version of
the limb in replacement of the absent space of the amputation. The film presents these ideas though contrasting an extreme reduction in the physical figure whilst setting this within an everyday domestic reality. The film attempts to probe whether our everyday digital experiences could be considered in the same vain as that of VPLT and VR embodiment experiments, but rather subsumed, and unnoticed as part of our everyday reality.