Thanks to the advent of new technologies, we have more ways than ever to express our identities online. The well-publicized OCULUS virtual reality headset has the potential to allow for immersive environments. What happens, then, when one artist decides to subsume his own personal identity for a month in order to experience someone else’s life through a headset?
The Seeing-I project, conceived by artist Mark Farid, requires him to wear a virtual reality headset constantly for 28 days while he “lives” the life of the “Other,” a real person selected from an open application process. This Other will go about living his life normally for the 28 days while secretly recording everything he sees and does through specially-designed glasses; only his romantic partner will know what’s going on. On a 6-day time delay, Farid will then recreate all the actions the Other does, including when the Other showers, when he goes to the bathroom, and when (as well as what) he eats. The Other must be a heterosexual male in a relationship (as Farid himself is), but there are no other criteria. Farid will be in a room containing necessities (bed, shower, toilet) that will be available for public viewing 23 hours a day. He will be fed the same foods the Other eats. For Farid, human interaction during the entire 28-day period will be prohibited; even Farid’s psychologist will not speak to him or interact with him, but merely observe him, except for the daily hour when this psychologist will provide care of some kind which does not require typical human interaction. The type of care is not specified.
On the Seeing-I website, the following statement appears: “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.”
There is one caveat: if Mark or member(s) of his team feel something is going wrong, and that his mental or physical health could be permanently affected, the project’s plug will be pulled early. Both an impartial psychologist and Farid’s personal psychologist will be on board as well.
The project will be run together with project curator Nimrod Vardi and documentary maker John Ingle.
Featured image: Oculus, © Clio Montrey.