Meet an artist doing provocative work with a VR headset

EMA-The-Futures-Void

Want to be less popular at cocktail parties on the West Coast? Try being a virtual reality skeptic. I can't help but feel validated, though, by this post from Wagner James Au looking back at 1992, just one of a few times in history we've been exactly as excited about VR as we are about the Oculus Rift now.

I met Mr. Au years ago when we were both writing about virtual worlds and the metaverse -- he was Second Life's official (first ever?) embedded journalist. I was writing articles about wealthy owners of virtual land and how the 3D web was our certain future. Since then I've grown leery of technologies that are mostly led by the imaginations of Snow Crash fans rather than by practical applications. I have not yet come upon anything intuitive and compelling enough to make me commit regular, daily applications of black-helmeted nausea to the agenda of my simple, one-touch daily life.

But I want to believe, honest. The coupling of alienation and novelty offered by the Oculus headwear might have interesting applications for art -- a possibility recently explored by musician Erika M. Anderson, who records as EMA. Her 2014 album The Future's Void very conscientiously examined how we mediate relationships through technology; this article by my friend Sophie Weiner about women musicians like EMA negotiating digital culture and surveillance state is worth your time.

EMA wore a VR headset on her album cover -- she's poised as if midsentence, as if in the midst of casual communication, with this great black brick obscuring all of her facial features. The VR headset also factored prominently into her recent multimedia installation, I Wanna Destroy, just presented on February 15 at MOMA's PS1 institute. Sady Doyle's write-up of the show, in all its confronting weirdness, is a cool read for anyone interested in thinking about the Oculus Rift -- and our hyper-connected culture -- in a new way.

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