Phantom consists of a virtual reality environment accessed through a pair of Oculus.
to make this work I collaborated with ScanLAB Projects, a London based firm, to scan a piece of the Brazilian Mata Atlántica rainforest, one of the fastest disappearing environments of the world.
Thanks to Oculus technology, a system of Optitrack tracking cameras, and the application written by ScanLab, one can move trough this environment, experiencing how one's invisible body interacts with the scanned forest, rendering a physical experience of dissolution into the world.
(...) Why not test the ability of the image to foster a union between ourselves and the world by creating the most supremely realistic copy of a place, one that can be inhabited and not just viewed? Why not return to the terminus of the steel cable spanning the jungle, where the 16mm camera ceased to record, and transform every living and inanimate and visible thing into infinitesimal polygons and fluid motion effects? Why not cross the abyss, finally, between ideas and things?
Suffice it to say Steegmann Mangrané has given this a shot. Last year, working with ScanLAB Projects, he returned to Mata Atlântica with a FARO Focus3D laser scanner in tow, converted the fifteen-hun- dred-foot plot of jungle into millions of points, then sculpted the data into an immersive record of the forest to be viewed with Oculus Rift, the bleeding-edge virtual reality headset. Phantom (2015) rends you from your body—look down and you'll find soil, not feet— and invites you to drift through the still image, scrutinize the inert ferns and bromeliads, gaze at the black dome beyond the canopy (which is an artifact of the scanning process, evidence of the laser's inability to retrieve information from the sky). For centuries we have been striving to create machines to deliver the world to our eyeballs in this manner. In The Romantic Machine: Utopian Science and Technology after Napoleon, John Tresch describes earlier efforts to elevate or escape from the ordinary, to understand and foster new models of perception, through the employ of mechanical image-making apparatuses— even as anxiety about the transformation of the world by new technologies reigned. The phantasmagoria produced realistic impressions of ghosts, enchanting and terrifying audiences; the panorama con- veyed spectacular, immersive experiences of pristine nature in urban centers. Tresch describes these inventions as "allegories of cosmic order: about what is in the world, how we know it, and how it can be altered."8
The virtual forest viewable via Oculus Rift may provide us with novel insights into the way in which we see and coincidentally manufacture the world. Or that most elevated and immvaculate mathematical constructions of reality may simply evince the impossibility of its representation. The near-perfection of the image ends up refuting its power, vor at least exposing the impressive, elaborate work of abstraction and quantification that goes into collapsing the gulf between representation and percep- tion. We see ourselves seeing the world as an image of our own fabrication. And, despite claims by Oculus Rift's creator that the device's "ultra-low latency 360° head track- ing" allows you to "seamlessly look around the virtual world just as you would in real life,"9 the experience may veer into abstrac- tion, no matter how liquid-crystal clear the parallel images flickering before our eyes.
(Provan, Alexander (2015): Formatting Reality. In: Surround Audience. Catalogue of the New Museum Triennial 2015, p. 50)
8. John Tresch, The Romantic Machine: Utopian Science and Technology after Napoleon (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), 153.