Geode #1 (Fun House)

A moment of ecstatic disruption, in the form of a seven-foot-wide inside-out disco ball.

Dome2 from Jared Friedman on Vimeo.

Geode #1 is a geodesic sphere, seven feet in diameter, mounted on a short wooden platform, with a small door in the side. The viewer enters the structure and sits down on a cushion on the floor, the door shuts, and everything is completely dark. After a short time, there is a flash of light, and all surfaces inside are revealed as mirrors – there is no fixed point, except for the viewer’s own body.

Soon the lighting begins to change, both of its own accord and in response to the viewer’s position and movements. The experience is by turns exploratory and meditative.

This project grew from two separate sources. The first and more straightforward was a series of thought experiments (and then actual experiments) on recording the entire vantage point from one perspective, photographically reproducing an environment so that the viewer could actually sit inside it, place his or her eyes at the center of the piece, and be transported into the landscape. I accomplished this by building a geodesic frame, assembling it around the point I wanted to capture, and shooting a photo through each “window” with a camera placed at the geometric center of the sphere, which were then printed and reassembled on the inside of the frame to display.

As I was first beginning to work on this, VR and 360 video were coming into their own, but that approach never particularly interested me, because of both the visual distortion which was inherent in what I was able to see of the technology, and of the disembodied experience it provided. I find that those immersive technologies make a lot more intellectual sense than human sense – they reproduce what we’ve agreed are the stimuli that convince the brain it’s in free and three-dimensional space, but they don’t ever look quite “right”. They are trapped, at least for the moment, in the uncanny valley.

I was much more interested in the geodesic frame, first as a plausible visual excuse for the border between one image and another (no need to blend or use trick imagery, as long as contours lined up), as a low-tech and imagination-based “vessel” for travel into another experience, and ultimately as a private chamber for an individual encounter with something. I began to imagine other experiences I could create in this rather blank space.

The second and perhaps more potent thread for me is something called depersonalization/derealization disorder, which I’ve experienced more or less continually since late adolescence. This manifests itself as an unshakeable feeling that the world is just a dream, and that I’m trapped in my own head, unable to fully inhabit the reality I share with other people. The parallel to VR is of course not lost on me.

Geode #1 is an address to this condition, an imaginary homeopathic remedy – a space so derealized that I am able to shock myself back into reality, or, conversely, a space where I’m better able to focus on what is real and what is truly illusory. Or, to look at it another way, I’m trying to create the antithesis of virtual reality: concrete unreality.

With that in mind, there are two overlapping audiences I can imagine. The vast majority will be merely curious – people who want a perceptual experience they’ve never had before. And really, that’s a big part of the attraction for me as well, the delight of exploring new perspectives and seeing what’s possible and what illusions can be created by the interplay of very basic elements (surface, angle, light, subject). The other audience would be people who are themselves trying to solve some mental puzzle – I would hope that my piece can serve as a helpful bump in an otherwise too-smooth road.