Ben Evans
Virtual Reality

This is not your first time here...nor will it be your last

This Troubled Material is a six degrees of freedom (6DOF) open world virtual reality experience that allows the viewer to explore the setting of a bathhouse, discovering its various rooms in their own time including: a sauna, steamroom, showers, pool, dance floor, labyrinth and a series of long hallways and private rooms.

The non-linear narrative becomes a subjective experience for each viewer, as there is no given destination or direction. The VR experience mimics that of an actual bathhouse, which is often about passing one’s own time by wandering, searching, getting lost and having unexpected encounters.

The experience is driven by a constant and distant music track that grows louder as the viewer nears a door that leads them to a massive dance floorr where an epic dance party takes place and the music envelopes the viewer. Some viewers may never make it there, however, and this music track becomes the charged backdrop against which their experience inside the other spaces of the bathhouse unfolds.

The other driver of sound is a series of quieter, more intimate moments of monologues, conversations and encounters that are drawn from documentary interviews with subjects talking about their experiences in bathhouses, with HIV and other issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community. Each room contains a character and a story, as narrated by the documentary subject’s own voice. Other rooms are empty, and suggest the possibility of potential encounters.

Other situations the viewer may encounter are erotic scenes that depict behavior often found in bathhouses. These may be heard through walls or doorways or actually witnessed if a door is found ajar or opens as the viewer approaches it. Some of these scenes are overlayed with a blur effect that morphs the action into something suggestive but almost unrecognizable.

Finally, a maze normally destined for sexual encounters is here transformed into a gallery space where a virtual art exhibition displays works by contemporary artists whose art has been converted into a virtual show. This aspect of the experience is meant to slow down virtual time and invite the viewer to look at art as they would in the physical world, providing a contrast to the pulsing drive of the rest of the experience as well as further unfolding the possibilities of this space beyond its function in the physical world.

The entire experience, then, is one of a recognizable space turned inside out, where unexpected encounters unfold within a world that appears to be living, in real time, with the viewer becoming a voyeur and observer of this place and its players.