We’ve all wondered what it would be like to see the world through someone else’s eyes. It is by all accounts a hopeless fantasy, but that hasn’t dissuaded 22-year-old Hong Kong filmmaker Alan Kwan from trying.
Kwan’s most ambitious attempt at consciousness bridging is called “Bad Trip,” a surreal virtual reality experience that lets users navigate video game-style through all—as in, basically every single one—of the visual experiences Kwan has had in the last year.
The technology behind Bad Trip is straightforward. In November 2011 Kwan attached a small, custom-designed video camera to the frame of his glasses. As he went about his life the camera recorded the world as it appeared before Kwan. At the end of each day Kwan uploaded the footage into a video game environment he’d built to store the memories; it can be loaded onto an Xbox and navigated using a joystick controller.
Bad Trip is a startling aesthetic experience. The six-minute demo reveals a stark, spectral world animated in black and white drawings that conveys the feeling of exploring a long-deserted planet (or watching a David Lynch movie). The landscape is dotted with stacks of “memory blocks” that look like piled freight crates and which hold the video recordings. Approach the memory blocks and suddenly the empty world of Bad Trip explodes with all the scenes from Kwan’s life: A plate of food at a restaurant, a girl sitting across the table, and in one surely intentionally ironic moment, footage from a video game that Kwan had played. It feels like dipping your head beneath the surface of a pool and into another world.
Of course, we don’t see the world the same way that a video camera attached to our eyeglasses does, and memories are much thicker constructions than pure visual data: They depend on context, thought, our other senses, our previous experiences, and on down the line. After watching (or playing or experiencing or encountering…it’s hard to say what the appropriate verb is here) Bad Trip you won’t necessarily feel like you understand Alan Kwan’s memories any better than you did before, but you might leave with a new way of imagining the weird, peripatetic terrain of your own mind.
[Photo courtesy Alan Kwan.]
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