Session 8b

PANEL: Heejoo Kim, Helen Kvale, and Simon Hutchinson: Suum & Behind the Loom

“Suum” is a virtual reality art game about mindfulness navigated by breathing. It is a virtual environment in which people can experience the basic human ability to be fully present via inhalation and exhalation. While the audience is wearing a virtual reality headset, they can view and interact with the 3-dimensional space, environmental elements, simulation, motion graphics, objects, and adaptive music. In order to take a step beyond the conventions of virtual reality, there will also be a respiration belt set up to measure participants’ breathing. The virtual setting and sound will be designed to create a lucid and relaxed environment that feels comfortable and can adapt the technology in order to focus on the user’s presence and surroundings. As a result, based on the length and strength of their breathing, users can experience the interaction between their respiration, the virtual atmosphere, and their own being. This project concept originated from the emerging mindfulness experience between the physical sensation of breathing and a virtual simulation using a respiration belt and virtual reality gear. “Suum” is a Korean word indicating the action of respiration. Traditional meditation concentrates on the breath, as we can tangibly sense our presence through the corporeal consciousness of breathing. Through repetition, people find themselves returning to focus on their presence, blocking out other thoughts and unnecessary emotions. As people practice mindfulness, they experience feeling calmer and more patient. The purpose of this project is to create an interactive virtual environment and sound, so the audience can focus on their being, rather than increasing harmful ruminating. Players focus on their own breathing patterns or they can select guides that coach the player in specific exercises through visual and audio stimuli. In this piece, mindfulness is explored through the interaction between breathing and virtual particles, fabrics, and an environment from an alternative perspective. As the experimentation with virtually transformative fabrics and objects in order to create sensitive interactions occur, it will also produce functional reactions for ambivalence about aggravation and sentiments. Observing the impact that their breathing has on the virtual world brings this autonomic process into the forefront of the audience’s consciousness, raising self-awareness and leading a user toward a state of mindfulness. Conceptually, this project practices mindfulness. Mindfulness is a mental state of being which entails being fully present, but not overly reactive by what is happening in one’s environment. The approach to mindfulness is connecting with unreality and our presence in reality. There is growing research discovering that when people exercise their brains to be more mindful, they can reconstruct the physical structure of their brain. Connecting mindfulness practice and virtual interaction has been used to bring more surreal and immersive experiences.

“Behind the Loom” uses theater as a springboard to look back at a family tragedy during a provocative period in history to interpret how an artist might have used his art to help him heal. And we are expressing this interpretive exploration through a new piece of art: the animated documentary short film. It is 1944, Berlin. The Red Army approaches from the East leaving the victims of mass rape in its wake.  Before Christmas, an artist creates a little loom for his four daughters. On it he paints their names and the words Allwelt, Christmas 1944.What was the historical context for this phenomenon of mass rape of German women and girls alongside mass suicide of German families? Why are the stories of German shame amongst women and men surfacing now? And why and when exactly did Albert Allwelt make a loom for his daughters? What did it represent to him and his family? Why does the story of this second world war German family matter? “Behind the Loom” is a short animated documentary film that explores the mystery of the loom through testimony by those who knew Ali, Hanni, and their four daughters. It tells the story of war: the mass rapes and suicides leading up Siege of Berlin by the Red Army in 1945. It gives us an insight into how a returning conscripted artist might have used art to cope with the death of his family and the trauma of war.