Virtual ISLANDs explores the relationship between the experience of virtual immersion in VR and the physicality of being submerged. An iterative multimedia installation including a 6DOF VR experience, inviting a reading of VR practice as aesthetic / artistic creation foregrounding submersion alongside immersion to highlight the relation between water and identity, inspired by my dual Caribbean and European heritage.

Virtual ISLANDs, July 2022, the latest version of my doctoral research-creation installation during a HEXAGRAM residency, including a VR experience, custom stage design and a 4.1.4 sound installation by electroacoustic composer Kasey Pocius, at AGORA Hydro Quebec (Montreal, Canada).

The VR experience features a volumetric video capture of aerial performer Keely Whitelaw portraying a gestural response to a virtual experience of being underwater. This was created on a floor based aerial structure using Depthkit Studio’s 10 sensor depth camera system with the support of Zù, Montréal.

Virtual ISLANDS ties the relationship between Caribbean futures – as an alternative to Western techno-futurism (Lewis, 2014) and the possibility of submersion as a postcolonial stance within VR-making practice. Inspired by the geography of Caribbean insularity and the influence of this geography on Caribbean identities, my project is informed by the violent histories of transatlantic slavery, which I read through the framework of British scholar Paul Gilroy’s notion of the Black Atlantic (1993) in dialogue with the notion of tidalectics developed by Barbadian scholar Kamau Brathwaite (1999). To counter the Western influence of the Hegelian dialectic of thesis / antithesis / synthesis, Brathwaite proposes a tidal poetics, or tidalectics, where the constant ebb and flow of the tides around Caribbean islands are constitutive to the philosophical framework around Caribbean identities.

FULL CREDITS below / all images ©olivia mc gilchrist, 2022


Sound composition and sound design by Kasey Pocius and Jack Hyde

Volumetric video performance by Keely Whitelaw

Printed banners created in collaboration with Julien Villeneuve

Volumetric video created with the support of Zù, Montréal’s Creative Hub, with Veronique Levert and Ricardo Morejon

Volumetric video capture support by Casey Alexander

VR implementation and interaction design by Jean-Ambroise Vesac and Casey Cotes-Turpin (UQAT)

3D modeling support by Anna Eyler

Production support: Concordia University, Milieux Institute, FRQSC, Hexagram, UQAT, Zù Montréal

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