VR to Begin With was a panel I hosted at the CGA2018 conference in Yugoslav Cinematheque in Belgrade on 16 November 2018. The panelists were Johanna Pirker (TU Graz), Ninoslav Adžibaba (VRlabs Belgrade) and Vladimir Todorović (UWA Perth). On this occasion I gave an interview to VFXSerbia: here it is at VFXSerbia website.
In the chapter “Phantomatics” of his collection of futuro-philosophical essays titled Summa Technologiae (1964), Stanislaw Lem—the author of Solaris (1961)—made a thorough conceptual exploration of the VR, and his critical observations are valid still today. One year later, Ivan Sutherland—the computing pioneer who created Sketchpad (1963)—published a paper on the concept of VR headset, and in 1968 he produced a working prototype called The Sword of Damocles.
Half a century after these breakthroughs, we are in the midst of new artistic, economic and political dynamics of the VR. With the question: What have we learned in the meantime?, this panel focuses on contemporary aspects and potentials of the VR. Our aim is to motivate informed, critical thinking and to promote creative research in the VR, rather than to be didactic.
Beyond its phonetic double meaning, our panel title VR to Begin With refers to the essay Virtual to Begin With? (2000) by German philosopher Wolfgang Welsch. In it Welsch criticizes the VR hype of the time, analyzes the concepts of virtuality and shows that in epistemological systems of different philosophers, the reality itself has been understood as virtual (as a virtual construct). So, on one hand, it implies that the technical and creative questions of the VR essentially rely on our understanding of the experience of reality—which is tricky, and on the other hand it reminds us that we are still at the onset of exploring the VR, regardless of current bleeding-edge technologies that implement it in fascinating ways.