The Eternal Ephemeral
The Eternal Ephemeral is a journey through the familiar and unfamiliar where light and sound drift along like our endless, numbered days. Within these walls the virtual and the real collide, opening up a gateway to a space in-between that is mundane, yet unfamiliar. A place where the everyday and routine animate the obscure and the alien, enabling the potential of the virtual to seep into the real. This symbiosis of the real and the virtual is mutually beneficial, perhaps even necessary, facilitating the expansion of both dimensions and revealing each as unique parts of a continuous whole.
The Eternal Ephemeral is a VR experience created for PC VR head-mounted displays. It employs a photorealistic aesthetic to create a convincing and familiar real-world environment. However, as participants travel through the environment, this photorealistic aesthetic is increasingly disrupted by repeating thematic elements such as sounds, virtual objects, characters, etc. Much like the repetition of motifs and themes in a piece of music, the repetition of these thematic elements invites participants to reconsider the entirety of the experience in relation to perceived similarities and differences.
In spatializing these thematic elements in a VR environment, this work aims to create a unique experience where the integration of the real and virtual raise questions about the ontological and relational status of both. Given tools designed to simulate the physical properties of the real world, what is the nature of the relationship between the virtual and the real? How do virtual experiences differ from those had in the real world? Does it matter? Can the latent potential of the virtual, untethered by physical limitations, unlock new ways of imagining or inhabiting the real world? If so, how?
The experience begins in a large, windowless room. The exposed concrete walls and floors, minimal decorative elements, and natural light cascading in through an overhead opening are characteristic of Brutalist architecture, a mid-20th century architectural style often used in institutional settings such as public libraries and universities. The sounds of a large machine can be heard in the distance, reverberating throughout the space. A bright blue, partly cloudy sky can be glimpsed through an opening above and passages to adjoining rooms can be seen at either end. As the participant moves through a passage to an adjoining room, they discover another room, very similar to the first. Each successive room introduces changes, sometimes small and sometimes significant. As a result, a participant’s trajectory through these rooms generates a spatial “score”, where certain thematic elements come and go, repeat and evolve over time, generating new experiences and re-contextualizing previous ones. Ultimately, the participant ends up back where they started. However, although the room is the same, the participant is not.
In creating an environment where the virtual leaks into the real, seeping into the fabric of the familiar and commonplace, this project suggests that the potential in the virtual lies in how it can transform the mundane into the alien, asking us to reconsider what has always been with us and that which we take for granted.