Seeing I is a social-artistic experiment that questions how much of the individual is an inherent personality and how large a portion of the individual is a cultural identity. For 24 hours a day for 28 days, artist Mark Farid will wear a Virtual Reality Headset through which he will experience life through another person’s eyes and ears; who for this project will be known as the Input.
Mark has had no previous relationship with this person; he is only aware that the Input is a heterosexual male, who is in a relationship. The Input is required to wear a pair of glasses that covertly capture audio and video in an 180-degree field of view.
Mark will inhabit a space consisting of a bed, a toilet and shower area that will be on constant display to the audience. There was also be a projection on display, so that the audience can see what Mark is seeing.
Over the course of the project, it will become apparent whether Mark will begin to lose his own sense of self, and start to inhabit the reality of the Input. With no one to validate any of Mark’s thoughts because he is unable to speak to anyone, will his only source of validation - the Input’s life - become the life which makes sense to Mark? Equally, this may not happen: he may entirely retain his sense of self and exist in a strange no man’s land between his own identity and the Input’s.
The findings, whatever they may ultimately be, will be compiled into a documentary featuring discussion on what has happened from relevant academics, psychiatrists, psychologists, neuroscientists, philosophers and artists. The reason for initiating this project stems from an interest in how much of the individual is an inherent personality and how large a portion of the individual is a cultural identity.
Over the course of the 28 days, Mark will have no human interactions to act as reference points to validate any questions, desires or thoughts he may have. Will the lifestyle of the input start to influence Mark’s characteristics, such as his mannerisms, memory, and personality, and if so, to what extent? Without freewill to determine and shape who we are, will the notion of consciousness be enough to counteract this?
We are currently speaking to universities, who are currently doing research into this field. We are also in communication with multiple psychiatrists, psychologists, neuroscientists and philosophers who will offer key expertise for the range of topics discussed over the course of the project. These discussions - before and after the 28 days - will be an integral addition to the documentary, as well as offering a way for any of the contributors to enhance their own research.
Due to the amount of current documentation stipulating that we lose and develop habits after three weeks, we have decided that four weeks is an adequate timeframe to give an indication of how these new habits are adopted.
Mark will be watching the footage from the Input 6 days in the past. This allows the crew to prepare the food Mark will eat and drink. Mark will eat, shower and go to the toilet when the Other does, which enables Mark to have no interactions with anyone, except for with the psychologist over the 28 day period. Consequently he will only experience human interaction through the Other.
Mark will enter the room where he will live for 28 days whilst wearing the virtual reality headset. The room will consist of a bed, a toilet and shower area; all of which will be on constant display to the audience. We hope to include a projector, with wireless headphones, so that the spectators can see and hear what Mark is experiencing at any given time. We have now agreed the location of the space, which is in Bethnal Green/Shoreditch: 133-155 Bethnal Green Road.
We will have two talks a day, covering topics which arise from this project, ranging from:
Does technology act as a mediator to experiences?
How does our environment affect our behaviour?
Can two people share the same identity?
The virtual reality headset consist of two screens, one for each eye, which allows Mark to be immersed in the Inputs environment. The field of view whilst viewing is 90 degrees, but Mark will be able to look around, from left to right, up and down, giving a real life 180-degree field view. Mark will not be able to see his immediate surroundings, other people, or even his own hands for 28 days, only the visuals presented on the screen.
The V. R. headset allows for a totally immersive experience into an environment that simulates the physical presence of places in the real world. Mark will also be wearing noise cancelling headphones, only hearing the audio from the built in binaural microphones in the Input’s glasses.
The glasses the Other is wearing will look like normal glasses; encased within the frames will be two lenses, an on-board computer, binaural microphones, data storage and batteries to enable use for a minimum of 24 hours. The visuals and audio that Mark will be experiencing will be recorded 6 days previously. This means that the footage, whilst live, will not be immediate, as the Other will start the project 6 days ahead of Mark, resulting in an overlap during a 34-day period.
Mark is currently undergoing sessions with a psychologist, explicitly for this project. Through these sessions, we can assess what Mark is currently like, and can then methodically compare how the events of the 28 day project have affected him. Mark will have a full medical check before and after this period, and will be required to talk to a psychologist for one hour a day for the 28 days (whilst still wearing the V. R. headset). Medical personnel will be on standby throughout the project, in the form of specially trained exhibition staff.
We have already spoken extensively to neuroscientists, and will continue to do so until the documentary is made, but also welcome additional research by anyone who would like to be involved with the project. Extra analysis and examination will need to be discussed to make sure it does not hinder our core ideals, but we are very open to further contributions.
The findings, whatever they may ultimately be, will be compiled into a documentary. Footage of Mark’s experience during the 28 days will complement interviews from before and after the event. The documentary will seek to elucidate the thematic notions at play, using Mark’s month long project as a lens through which they can be examined. There will be discussion from relevant academics and artists on their understanding of what has happened. Naturally this cannot be pre-empted, and can only commence once the 28 days has drawn to a close.