Inez de Coo is a video artist, film programmer and curator from Amsterdam. As an artist she has shown at various international galleries, among which Studio Voltaire in London and Werkleitz in Germany. Her work is currently in the collection of the Saatchi Gallery in London. In 2016 she started working at IMPAKT where she is in charge of the film programmes of the IMPAKT Festivals and curates several events and screenings. She also works as a curator for We Are Public and the Architecture Film Festival Rotterdam.
Have you ever experienced a work of art in Virtual or Augmented Reality? What was your impression of it?
I have. My experiences have ranged from being unpressed to overwhelmed. I recall an early VR of riding an actual bike (fixed to the ground) in a virtual city. It was my friend’s first experience with an Oculus Rift. He spectacularly fell off the bike in full sight of a hall filled with people. He was fine, but it was intriguing to see how much the experience affected his sense of balance.
In your opinion, what new artistic potentialities were uncovered by Augmented and Virtual Reality technologies?
I believe Mixed Reality technologies provide new possibilities for empathic experiences by literally inhabiting the body and eyes of another human being, animal or other presence. Of course, this can be a trap as well, because a moment in a headset will never truly be equal to a lifetime of lived experience.
Have you ever curated artworks in AR/VR? Can you tell us a bit more about your decision of including – or excluding – such artworks in your projects?
I have, but not many. There are always many technical complications, and connected to this financial ones, and recently Covid-19 has also caused practical problems regarding the hygiene of headsets. Otherwise, I love the opportunities the medium can offer although, in my opinion, there seem to be still many creative ways to use the medium that aren’t explored. With time this is sure to change.
Do you reckon that the immersion in alternative environments as offered by AR/VR technologies can be functional to the demand for a reconceptualization of ourselves in the world’s ecology?
I’m not sure what you mean by this. I suppose the experience can make you think differently about your life and existence within the world’s complexity.
Do you think AR/VR technologies could be instrumental to societal changes as regards as, for example, the problem of misrepresentation of specific social groups or the plague of systemic racism?
Yes, it can be. But we should be careful about considering any technology a panacea. I have had a profound experience in Iñárritu’s Carne y Arena, but in many ways this project confirmed by concerns about the reality of immigration. I am doubtful about the medium’s chance of convincing someone who feels differently. First of all, in a museum setting, the works are already introduced to a like-minded audience. Secondly, there is enough mistrust of technology that will make it unlikely that those who do not share this particular worldview will be convinced.
What are your expectations about the development and use of these technologies in the artistic field in the near future? Do you expect them to spread and become popular in the artistic field or do you see AR/VR as irremediably elitist?
As for AR, there are still very few artistic projects in this field. I believe there is a great need for a move away from the mobile phone and this is where VR comes in. Until a workable variant of the ‘google glass’ comes in, possibilities for AR are still very limited. I believe VR has made a lot of progress in becoming widely available. However, Facebook’s ownership of Ocular Rift and other VR technologies is of great concern to me. They are known for making life for any alternative platform very hard indeed. However, for now the bloom of artistic VR project is still very much happening.