"By changing space,
by leaving the space of one's usual sensibilities,
one enters into communication with a space that is psychically innovating ...
For we do not change place,
we change our nature."
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics qf Space

The medium of "immersive virtual space" or virtual reality (VR) as it is generally known has significant potential as an arena for constructing metaphors about being-in-the-world and for exploring consciousness as it is experienced subjectively, i.e. as it is "felt". Such environments can provide a new kind of "place" through which our minds may float, among three-dimensionally embodied yet virtual form in a paradoxical combination of the ephemerally immaterial with what is perceived and bodily felt to be real. My work explores VR's capacity for refreshing our "ways of seeing", through the design of immersive virtual environments "unlike" our usual sensibilities.

"Osmose" is a "fully-immersive" virtual environment using a stereoscopic head-mounted display, interactive 3D sound, and an interface based on breath and balance, as well as live video/audio projection and a cast shadow-silhouette if the "immersant". There are a dozen "worlds" in "Osmose", metaphorical re-constructions of nature as well as text and code. Transparency is used to create an ambiguous and evocative aesthetic as an alternative to the "hard-edged objects in empty space" of conventional 3D computer graphics. Interaction through breath and balance allows immersants to "float", a hands-free approach informed by scuba diving which affirms the role of the physical body in virtual space.

In "Osmose", the unusual experience of seeing and floating through things along with reliance on breath and solitary immersion tends to facilitate an altered state of awareness in participants whereby desire for action and control gives way to contemplative free-fall. What people encounter in "Osmose" is none other than their own being, as embodied consciousness in enveloping space.

My practice in this field contains a bittersweet aspect entangled in feelings of longing and loss. For even as "places" like "Osmose" may one day be accessible on the Net as virtual sites of contemplation, so too such sites may signal the demise of traditional places of self-reflection and tranquillity, particularly in terms of seeking out nature as we know it, as, compromised in body and habitat by human activities, its unfathomable presences recede further and further from our daily lives.


Georges Mauro - graphics
John Harrison - virtual reality software
Rick Bidlack - music composition
Dorota Blaszczak - sound design
Produced by Softimage

Technical List

- SGI ONYX Reality Engine 2, provided by Softimage, R4400 150 Mhz processor
- DAT drive
- Video monitors
- Interface: "VR" helmets and sensitized bodysuit
- Digital video projector
- Computer programs and interface "Osmose"
- Digital stereo amplifier with speakers

This article may include minor changes from the original publication in order to improve legibility and layout consistency within the Immersence Website. † Significant changes from the original text have been indicated in red square brackets.

Last verified: December 14th 2013.