Being, Becoming

Being, Becoming is a networked art piece created in collaboration with Xiyao (Miranda) Shou that explores themes of interbeing and (dis)embodiment within virtual space. The work seeks to interrogate the systemically encouraged but misguided delineations of self-as-agent and environment-as-stage by presenting an interactive virtual reality experience in which each simultaneously exists as the other — a borderless and interdependent entity experiencing itself in the act of co-creation. While the aesthetics of the virtual experience are intentionally appealing, it is this invisible relational dynamic that serves as the keystone of the piece and (ideally) lingers as a point of reflection as participants reconvene with the tangible world.

Being, Becoming is a Unity-based Oculus VR experience with a wearable pulse sensor connected to an Adafruit ESP32 microcontroller. Within the VR world, participants find themselves situated in a hilltop ruin on a small isolated island. To either side, standing partially submerged off the shore, are two colossal marble hands that uncannily mirror the participant’s real-world finger positions via the Oculus headset’s hand tracking feature. Suspended in the sky above is an enormous orb of fluid that ‘beats’ in synchrony with the heart of the participant through pulse sensor data via MQTT network. What was once within is depicted without; what was once physically attached is now ecologically, ‘networkedly’ so.

Inspired by works the likes of Raphael Lozano-Hemmer’s Pulse Room (2006) and Alexandra Daisy Ginsburg’s Pollinator Pathmaker (2021), Being, Becoming is a reflection upon the ecological, fractally-repeating networks within which each of us is an active agent — this activeness itself reflected in how its titular words are interchangeably readable as both nouns and verbs. The work invites its observer to walk away with a newfound sense of radical relationality, a recognition of one’s individual (though not always palpable) influence upon the broader networks with which one is entangled.

This project was designed for Professor Steve Daniels‘ RTA958 Networked Art course.