OUTERBODY MAZE

Interactive two-player game installation, 2012

Jason Wilson [US]

Picking up where his 1996 installation The Importance of the I 1 left off, Jason Wilson created The OuterBody Experience Lab in 2012. Its aim was to further explore, in a more interactive incarnation, the ways disembodied vision can impact our sense of self in the contexts of neuroscience, education, creativity, rehabilitation, and of course gaming. In a world that’s trying to understand the balance between the individual and the group, the self and the other, and the borders of ourselves, the Lab has had no shortage of territory to explore.

For GAME, Jason will install OuterBody Maze, a two-player wayfinding race where navigation is negotiated only through the perspective of a video camera suspended directly overhead. The game pulls your sense of sight out of your body and then points it back at yourself, giving you the illusion that you are either looking at someone else, or that you are not in your own body anymore. It’s a video game starring yourself, without any virtual elements, where your own body is the controller but the choreography of even simple movements has to be relearned. The maze engages two threads of visual cognition. The first is following and remembering potential paths with the eyes to determine their viability. The second is using visual feedback about your position and orientation to successfully steer your body along the intended path all the while remembering which of the two players is you.

During these episodes of intense visual engagement the sense of self tends to rely more heavily on these strong visual signals and less so on the other unstimulated inputs [sound, touch, smell, taste]. This results in a sensation that you are not in your own body but rather in an external control space where your gestures and movements act as remote control cues for your distant body to mimic. You become a puppeteer of yourself. The landscape of the body is the new playground of the mind.

OUTERBODY MAZE Celebrating a shared victory at an Awesome Foundation grantee party. Photo: Jason Wilson

"“One benefit of this maze format is that there is literally no salient touch data interfering with the visual input. When the visual input is relied on most heavily, and isn’t contradicted by other sensory information, there’s a higher chance of having the feeling of a classic out-of-body experience. That’s the origin of this work, designing a way to see what role the sense of sight has over the location of the sense of self, but from an art history perspective it was also concerned with why visual art was so much more widely lauded and revered as the highest form in western civilisation. If we can pull your sense of sight out of your body will your sense of self follow”"

—Jason Wilson [US]