A Machine for Viewing: A virtual reality video essay

by Richard Misek

This presentation takes the form of a walk-through of A Machine for Viewing, a seated virtual reality experience co-produced by the speaker and virtual reality studio Vrtov. Set in an empty cinema auditorium, it transplant the narrative video essay format into an interactive virtual space,so as to provide a fresh perspective on the haptic experience of watching a film in a cinema. A Machine for Viewing will, in turn, itself be installed in a physical cinema auditorium, resulting in an experience that enfolds cinema and VR within each other. In this way, each becomes a machine for looking at, and reflecting on, the other. Delivered from inside a VR headset, this presentation will add an extra layer to the themes of immersion, isolation, and communality explored in the VR experience itself. My immersion and isolation inside the virtual cinema will be projected onto a screen and shared with the audience, who will be able to experience the walk through communally. By mixing these various modes of engagement, the presentation will investigate and perform the experiential continuities and contradictions that exist between film and virtual reality, two related but very distinct machines for viewing.