ILLUSIONS OF EMBODIMENT, 2016. EXCERPT RUNTIME: 01:54. ORIGINAL VERSION: 28:19. FOUR CHANNEL VIDEO, COLOR, SOUND, 4K, HD, SD. MOVEMENT: LAUREL JENKINS. ANIMATION + SOUND: PHILIP SCOTT
“The initial surprise was just how easy it is to trick the brain. When you look at an avatar that’s meant to be someone other than you, the temporo-parietal cortex stays quiet. But when the avatar starts mimicking your movements, showing your heart rate or speaking your words — all tricking your brain into thinking the avatar is your own body — the temporo- parietal cortex lights up, just as it does when you watch yourself in a mirror. Two minutes of simulation can override an entire lifelong experience when it comes to what your body is and where it is. It goes back to Descartes, “Cogito ergo sum.” I think therefore I am. But if our brain adopts an avatar as a body, are we still? We seem to take for granted that our consciousness is in our body. But what if it’s not?”
Illusions of Embodiment makes visible a very powerful and important happening within virtual immersion — one that should be made transparent as an an array of exciting, positive, and dangerous happenings for the human psyche. This phenomena experienced in the temporo-parietal junction begins to open a conversation of who or what “the self” is. This technology then begins to fit within the canon of philosophy, spirituality, artistic practice, and cognitive science that all seek understanding of the sense of self. Importantly, this loss of self identity experienced within virtual reality may result in a spectrum of experience — an upwelling of love, unity, a foundation for ethics, and at the other end of the spectrum — disassociation and nihilism. These implications point to the potential for manipulation of a user via our perceptual gullibility and our brain’s inherent susceptibility to this simulation.
Installation still, New Wight Gallery, University of California at Los Angeles, CA.