Sense:less is a virtual reality project in 1996, lead by Knut Mork, Kate Pendry, Stahl Stenslie and Marius Watz. It was displayed at DEAF (Dutch Electronic Arts Festival) in 1996, commissioned by the Henie-Onstad Art Center and Silicon Graphics Norway. It’s a virtual environment where users can experience not only audio, but visual and sensory sensations by exploration. Within this environment, there are multiple inhabitants, or digital entities that have their own unique and distinct personalities.
The user is contained within an egg-like structure, a transparent plastic oval container which is inflated by an air fan and suspended by steel rods, and is placed on a platform. The virtual environment is also visible to the audience, as images of what the user sees is projected onto the walls of the egg. Audio feedback is also shared to the audience, as there is a speaker system that broadcasts what the user hears.
The user is strapped on a light weight suit that has 16 areas of stimulation (by vibration) at different parts of the body. He or she sees the virtual simulation through simulation goggles, and controls his “avatar” with a wand that controls movement.
The virtual world itself is a large space-like world and is inhabited by five different entities: Jean-Claude, Amanda, Harold, Autista, and ‘the Sisters’. Each entity has its own visual look, personality and interaction with the user. Jean-Claude is a jellyfish-like creature that floats around slowly that talks about his trips in Europe in a slow and boring manner. Amanda is a purple upside down cone creature that emits high-pitched squeals and expresses itself in an inarticulate speech pattern. It also zooms around the environment constantly. Harold is a group of green rectangles that constantly fluctuate. He talks about a woman and her beautiful features in a romantic way. Autista is a cluster of green rectangles that orbit a red diamond in the middle. She talks in an eerie way, saying in small phrases and questions such as, “Didn’t I tell ya?” Each of these entities also interact with the user by touch; each of them have a different reaction by vibrating certain parts of the body or in a pattern.
Sense:less is not only an interactive art project, but also addresses how technology can affect people and their humanity. Although it is simply virtual, it enhances the human bodies experience. We escape our physical body’s limitations by entering these new worlds that offer new forms of sensuality. For instance, people no longer have to attend town halls or hear bell boys in order to hear current events. They can simply turn on their smartphones or other devices that connect to the internet. Even online classes in schools are a prime example; virtual realities transgress our material and “limited” selves towards a field of unlimited freedom.
The possibility of electrical augmentation of the body and of having virtual bodies attached to our real bodies suggests the freedom to transgress the normal limits of the body; limits of time and space, of appearance and fixed gender, of a unitary self, of self and other.
Senseless was just the beginning step towards how we can further push the limits of our bodies through digital medium. Technology has evolved from simple digital screen projections (TV’s and Computers) to enhance more than our visual senses. Modern inventions such as Google Glasses and the Occulus Rift are all examples of how we are further and further pushing ourselves with digital means