A HAPTISONIC VIRTUAL REALITY MEMORY WORLD
A PROJECT BY CHLOE LEE
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this site with sound.
“Temporal World” is a generative, haptisonic VR experience in which artist Chloé Lee reflects on making meaning in places with varying levels of connection to her; from the personal, to the familial to the foreign. We are guided to slow down while exploring Berlin and beyond in our increasingly accelerated time. As an Asian-American artist, she explores themes of migration through discovery, documentation and, eventually, rooting herself in a new place.
This VR world emphasizes the ephemerality of memory. Visitors explore and shape the landscape that is as fragmented and fickle as memory itself while wearing a custom haptic jacket that adds sensation to the typical audiovisual VR experience. These new ways of sensing, and in turn understanding, help create a more nuanced understanding of our interactions and, often invisible, dynamics within our environments.
While wearing a custom haptic jacket which sends vibrational feedback through the body, participants enter the Oculus headset to find a virtual world composed of 3D scanned sights and soundscapes of Berlin, China and New York. These immersive environments are made of particles that shift and swarm according to the user’s movements and interactions. The faster one navigates through space, the more chaotic particle movements become. Forms deform, the discernible becomes indiscernible. As a result, stillness and moving slowly is necessary to take in and engage with the intricacies of this environment.
Reactions within the virtual environment are visible not only in the morphing particle systems, but also heard through the evolving spatial sound, and felt through live translations of the sound from the virtual world to vibrational feedback patterns sent to the haptic jacket. This emphasis on the touch experience is present while exploring the virtual world, and continues as visitors create their own sound and haptic experiences.
Despite the water saturated air, crumbling begins at the fringes. I wonder: how do we keep these crumbling moments? Once they are not-so-perfect anymore, we crush the mud leaves into the ground, mix them back into the pool of mud that bore them. Soon that will also be gone, enveloped by a shadow under a durian tree.
Everyday, though we may not see it, our smallest interactions shape and leave a trace on the world around us. In Temporal World, visitors explore an ephemeral memory world inspired by places that have varying levels of connection to me; from the personal, to the familial to the foreign.
In the experience, visitors meet Ismail, a Turkish flutist and nomad who I met while walking through Berlin. As an Asian-American artist, I have explored themes of migration, beginning with my own family’s history. I moved to Berlin to explore what it meant to find connection in a place I had no personal history.
While this VR world is composed of 3D-scanned places and sounds from my personal archive, it reacts to visitors' actions. Eventually, through the act of walking, people make their own path, which generates underneath them. The aim was to engage one’s sense of discovery and agency. How can sensing in new ways create a more nuanced understanding of how we make meaning?
We hear our movements shift the soundscape, and vibration is felt on the body with a custom haptic jacket.
Walls melt as we move too quickly, and glitchy, almost indiscernible figures are sculptable with our virtual particle hands. These new ways of sensing help make often invisible interactions visible.
Participants are pushed to slow down and be more conscious. A dreamy subway track may sound familiar to Berliners as it echoes over an abstracted Tempelhofer Feld. Touching a seemingly mundane lemon, takes one to Hoisan, China, into my family’s ancestral home. In New York people explore the place I called home for 10 years as it becomes foreign to me. Together, these memories embrace a multiplicity that represents different parts of myself, and I hope that through my experiences others can reflect on their own.
As we journey, details of previously visited places appear with more clarity. This virtual world is not unlike our physical world; with distance and time we often gain clarity. This project is an embracing of temporality, Although the places, people and things that hold the essence of meaning are impermanent, the trace left behind can always be reimagined into something new.
I found meaning and community in Berlin in the process of making this project and that is reflected in Temporal World. People can meet Lucas who developed this project with me, and Dru who fabricated the jacket. After the experience participants will also have the option to be 3D scanned into the world, leaving their own trace.
Inspired by the music of Ismail, a Turkish nomad and flutist who I met in Kreuzberg.
HAPTIC JACKET MOTOR PLACEMENT
TEMPORAL WORLD HAPTIC JACKET, PROTOTYPE 1.0
Jacket translates sound from the virtual world to vibrational feedback on the user's body on 42 points on the upper body, including the neck, arms, finger tips. The design also includes a bass belt.
Developing interactive elements in VR for the touch experience
Chloé uses color, collage, and drawing to create densely layered, moving and still images which explore where digital and analog worlds meet. Her most recent fascination has been with 3D and VR environments and how these new spaces can be used to explore memory, identity, and how we make meaning.
Chloé is a 2021 Creative Arts Fulbright grantee for a VR project she is developing in Germany called Memory Palace. She is an Associate Member of the research group Object Space Agency at Matters of Activity Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.
The artist acknowledges the support of the Cluster of Excellence »Matters of Activity. Image Space Material« [especially the projects »Cutting« and »Object Space Agency«] funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) under Germany's Excellence Strategy – EXC 2025 – 390648296.
Director/Producer: Chloé Lee, VR Experience Developer: Lucas Martinic
The Temporal World Haptic Jacket was based on the Haptic Hanbok developed by Fardin Gholami, Yoonha Kim and Maxime Le Calvé for the Stretching Materialities exhibition at Tieranatomisches Theater.
The original Temporal World garment was created with the aim to recreate Chloe Lee’s personal vibrational experience.
Garment Designer/Fabricator: Dru Blumensheid of Bumesi, Hardware Engineer: Mohammed Fardin Gholami,
Custom haptic sensations composed by Chloé Lee while wearing the Temporal World jacket.
Special thanks to Victor Minces for advising on spectrogram sound integration to optimize instrument sound creation; Isaac Munoz for advising on sound design for virtual reality; Kara Lynch for support on development of experience design and project management; Julia Blumenthal for advising on fabrication of exhibition installation.
Original project proposal selected and backed by the Fulbright Program, and the project began in New York in the Integrated Media Arts, Master of Fine Arts program at Hunter College, A City University of New York. Additional support from the New Media Caucus for the 2022 microgrant.