Hereafter Life

Gabe Barcia-Colombo

United States
VR/AR Award

The Hereafter Life is a virtual reality immersive installation which allows you to spend time with people who have passed away in a series of virtual spaces. You begin in a waiting room, a stark white hallway filled with filing cabinets and a lone door. This is a modern mausoleum, a gateway to spaces in which we can remember the deceased virtually. Along the walls are placed plaques with names and dates. Using gaze detection, the viewer can stare at these plaques to unlock a unique virtual afterlife behind the door. Each virtual afterlife is tailored to the individual who has passed away. 

Just as the ancient Egyptians were buried with their personal artifacts and commissioned books of the dead, these virtual environments contain the media that makes up our modern lives. An example would be the memorial built for my own grandfather José Rubia Barcia. José was a writer and poet and his virtual afterlife is a garden modeled meticulously based on old photographs and google satellite imagery of his garden. In the garden he sits at a typewriter writing poetry. As you approach him you hear the hours of recordings of him reading poetry recorded in the 1970’s on audio cassette. You are invited to explore his garden and spend as much time with him as you wish. This experience is not designed to replace traditional mourning, but rather allows the visitor to step inside a memory and perhaps contemplate death in a less dismissive fashion. The recreation of each of these individual environments acts as a new model for remembering the deceased. I worked closely with individuals to create custom memorials for their loved ones and in doing so, hope to encourage a more active discussion about death.

This Hereafter Life presents us with a very real futuristic narrative for how we will deal with death in the digital age. What will we do with all of the digital data, the remains of our lives online? How do we build modern memorials in virtual spaces? Rather than a traditional linear narrative, the vr piece features an ever expanding series of spaces with many virtual micro documentaries. If you had to curate your own afterlife, what sort of environment would you choose? What objects or media would you like to be present in your own virtual afterlife? How do you want to be remembered?

HTC Vive, Unity, Structure Scanner, Mixamo