When I went back to do some more Virtual Reality drawing at the Fab Lab, a new thought came to me that hadn’t come to me before, oddly. And that thought is how strange it felt not being able to see my body. It surprises me that this hadn’t occurred to me before. I couldn’t see my body in the VR world, of course not, but, more importantly for the act of drawing, I couldn’t see my hands.
This leads to the question: is being able to see the body (and especially the hands) important for the act of drawing? If you can’t see your hands, are you somehow rendered infantile again in your mark making? I certainly felt like that. It had bothered me how difficult VR drawing seemed to be, at least, in comparison to real drawing. I love drawing. It is my first passion. Yet, drawing in VR is hard. It is much harder than drawing on paper with a fine liner pen, which is what I do.
In the VR world, the tools for drawing appear to hover in mid-air, as do the drawings themselves. I have no hands. They are moving because I am moving them but I can’t see my hands moving them. I can’t see my arms, my legs, my feet, or the floor. This realisation that my body was absent made me feel suddenly slightly more clumsy. I could not see me at all, I didn’t exist. I couldn’t see the ground or the objects that I remembered were around me. I was invisible. Invisibility is a strange sensation indeed (one that we cannot replicate in the real world). It is interesting how before I had this realisation, I had not felt any sense of vertigo. But remembering suddenly that I was in a room with chairs and other things close by, four walls, people and a floor, and also that I had a body and hands, gave me a vertiginous feeling and made my drawing even worse.
Later in the week, by coincidence, I also came across a term that is new to me: Mixed Reality. I needed to know how this related to Virtual Reality and whether it was related the to the sensation that I had no body in VR. This term came to me via a link to an art piece to be shown at the Serpentine Galleries by performance artist Marina Abramovic called ‘The Life‘. In this piece, she will be ‘present’ to interact with people, without actually being present at all. The piece lasts 19 minutes in which Abramovic interacts albeit in the past, with real people, in a Mixed Reality setting. To experience the performance, audience members wear Magic Leap One lightweight spatial computing devices, before entering the gallery space. Unlike VR, Mixed Reality allows the gallery and the visitors to be completely visible throughout the experience, which is why it differs to my odd sensations while drawing in VR. I would love to experience this. If I can wing myself a trip to London I might try.
If I could draw my objects in VR yet whilst being present in the physical world and being able to see all that is around me, now that would be something.