Ysatis Batal

What are you running away from?

installation, 3D simulation of the installation, VR video

My body of work has moved through several different ideas, but they all relate to the theme of escapism. In fact, I realized that escapism is the key concept of utilitarianism. At the price of ethics, meaning and reality, it is nurtured by a society which is in constant search of the maximization of ego-centred pleasures and the minimization of pain. The installation is a room comprised of one glass and four mirrored walls in which there is a chair, a Virtual Reality headset and pens. The spectator is a primordial part of the artwork which would not exist without them. In fact, thanks to the mirror’s reflection, the room is visually composed by who and what is inside. There is no right or wrong interpretation although I am about to present my own.
In order to maximize pleasure, we produce mass customized entertainments that attract the broadest audience and give them a false sense of connection. These escapist entertainments, such as computers or TV, nurture a very efficient virtual authority that instils invisible violence. That is why Jean Baudrillard put in perspective terrorism in Simulation and Simulacra: “This is what terrorism is occupied with as well: making real, palpable violence surface in opposition to the invisible violence of security”. We are all running away from something and the more we avoid experiencing despair and angst, the closer we are from losing completely our sense of self. I do not believe in any kind of ideology or word ending in -ism. I do not believe in convincing people to change as it tends to impose a hierarchy. I believe in individuals changing by themselves for themselves. I believe, as Guattari declares in Chaosmosis, that “the only acceptable end purpose of human activities is the production of a subjectivity that is forever self-enriching its relationship with the world”. However, as ironic as it is, I feel that is my own ideology in a way, and I do not wish to impose it on anybody. The only way I found to do so is to stimulate senses, to search for what precedes words and thoughts: perception. Slavoj Zizek, whose work continues Baudrillard’s train of thought, states in “From Virtual Reality to the Virtualization of Reality”, that we all consider new technologies as a medium of mastery and control. Although, the “wonderment and magic” it provokes counters the negative judgement we have for it. Borrowing the concept of “bad infinity” and “proper infinity” from Hegel, he explains that new technologies are reproducing over and over the same self-referential error as opposed to “proper infinity”, which will create something new. By understanding this concept, I was able to refine the definition of escapism. If I find myself falling into a vicious circle of unsatisfaction while having an escapist behaviour, I understand I am self-decepting. If I find myself creating and/or feeling something new and/or engaging in activities that produce and express subjectivity, while having an escapist behaviour, I understand I am escaping from chains.
My installation has strong references to “bad infinity” and “proper infinity”. On one hand, the VR video brings you to a virtual space where everything seems infinite. You will find yourself powerless and controlled. In order to keep this negative feeling, I will break the “wonderment and magic” by exposing you to uncomfortable images and sound. I intend to remind the viewer that they are sitting in a physical space. On the other hand, the physical mirrored room has for objective to compel you to interact with the other and the traces he is leaving behind. It gives the viewer the opportunity to put an end to their uncomfortable and infinite reflection by writing or drawing on the mirrored walls. I hope this room will embody “proper infinity”. The more people express themselves on the mirrored walls, the less claustrophobic the room will feel, and the less people will want to escape and put the VR headset on.


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