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Prix 1987 - 2007

ORF Oberösterreich

About Five Idylls (The Narcissist)
Robert McFadden

My work explores virtual reality technologies as cultural interventions. It is based on the premise that nascent technologies, in their initial awkwardness, offer opportunities to challenge dominant patterns of technological development. This premise is partially based on the concept of noise used by Jacques Attali in his analysis of the political economy of music. Noise, Attali suggests, is any signal which poses an inscrutable challenge to the system into which it is insinuated. The noise of virtual reality technologies emerges from the act of representing existing cultural conditions and conventions in unique and unexpected combinations. In current discourses, virtual reality has become a literal embodiment of widely held desires and fears - particularly those desires and fears embracing tensions between bodies and technologies. My practice ventures to intervene at these points of tension in current discourses by amplifying the noise already latent in virtual reality technologies.

In producing 'About Five Idylls (The Narcissist)', I began with the assertion that our perceptions and deployments of virtual reality technologies are fundamentally determined by our ideologies of gender. 'About Five Idylls' explores one possible set of relationships suggested by this assumption: those between virtual reality technologies and concepts of masculinity. These relationships are posed through a juxtaposition of three embodiments: the virtual body (the visual, audio and event elements of the virtual environment), the technological body (the hardware and software as prosthesis), and the human body (the user/audience).
Four specific body images of masculinity are represented in the virtual environment: the hysterical male, the manifest male, the ideal male, and the dissolved male. United, these body images constitute the pathology of the narcissist which Bela Gruberger describes in his psychoanalyses of fascist males.
'About Five Idylls (The Narcissist)' is a virtual reality environment integrating binocular three-dimensional video and binaural three-dimensional audio. The environment is experienced by means of a headset incorporating two small liquid crystal video screens (one for each eye), audio headphones and a three-dimensional position detector, and a hand held mouse. (Robert McFadden)