Longlist Close-up: VR

Longlist Close-up: VR

Carla Rapoport

Virtual Reality burst into Lumen's view in 2015 with Michael Takeo Magruder's hauntingly beautiful New Jerusalem which won that year's Immersive Environment award. The category was changed to Mixed Reality in 2016, a term which didn't catch on, so this year, it's become the the VR/AR Award. A total of 8 stunning works using Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies made it to the 2017 Longlist, all of which break new ground. 

Pictured above is a clip from Hereafter Life by Gabe Barcia-Colombo, a Virtual Reality installation that allows the viewer to spend time with people who have passed away in a series of virtual spaces. As the artist explains, the viewer begins 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, he's put plaques with names and dates. Using gaze detection, the viewer can unlock a unique virtual afterlife behind the door. 

"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," explains Barcia-Colombo. Hereafter Life is a beautiful, moving work which extends VR technology into a very human space - one that couldn't come alive through any other media. It's another reason why digital art is such a game-changer for the contemporary art scene.