Design and Violence

THE WEIGHT OF WATER

Elaine Hoey, 2016

Seeking asylum in a dark landscape

This virtual-reality installation invites the viewer to experience an abstract visual landscape while navigating the difficult boat journey made by refugees as Europe begins to close its borders to those seeking asylum. The viewer is both spectator and performer, on a boat with others in a night-time ocean, traversing a space that is part real and part fantasy. The artist notes that “as the majority of us view the unfolding refugee crisis at a distance, this distance allows the safety of the screen to separate us from experiencing the harsher realities of this crisis. Virtual reality can be seen to collapse this distance between the viewer and the screen, reasserting a sense of presence” as a witness with an augmented—but always partial—understanding of these traumatic and grim experiences.