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Seeing I: Recorder

2017 – 2019

For 24-hours a day, for 14-days, artist Mark Farid will wear a virtual reality headset, experiencing life through the eyes and ears of one person; hearing only what they hear and seeing only what they see for two weeks.

Inspired by Psychologist Philip Zimbardo’s ‘Stanford Prison Experiment’ (1971), Philosopher Jean Baudrillard’s ‘Simulacra and Simulation’ (1981), and Artist Josh Harris’ ‘Quiet: We Live in Public’ (1999), Seeing I will confine Farid to a gallery space, subject to the simulated life of the project’s Other. With no existing relationship to the Other, how will the constant stream of artificial sights and sounds start to displace Farid’s own internal monologue? For the duration of the project, Farid will experience no human interaction relative to his own life, allowing his indirect relationship with the Other to become his leading narrative.

Adapting the question of nature vs. nurture to the digital age, Seeing I will consider how large a portion of the individual is an inherent self, and how large a portion is a consequence of environment and culture. How will the 14-days alter Farid’s movement, mannerisms, personality, and most importantly, his rationale? Without free will to determine and shape who he is, will Farid’s consciousness be enough to deter significant change?

Seeing I was conceived and created by artist Mark Farid, is commissioned by arebyte Gallery, UK, and the European Media Art Platform, EU, and supported by the Sundance Institute, USA, and the National Theatre Immersive Storytelling Studio, UK.

Between 2017 and 2019, Tadej Vindiš developed together with Frank Davies and Drew Richards a custom-built 220-degree video and audio recorder for the Seeing I project. The head mounted wearable recorder was the first of its kind, designed to record continuously for 24 hours from a first-person point-of-view, generating footage for a VR headset.

As part of the development of the recorder, Tadej conducted research in the technical challenges of real to virtual environments, and contributed to Seeing I project's wider research, which investigates the physical and psychological consequences of long-durational VR experiences, and the effects of virtual immersion on the formation of self through virtual otherness.

The material on this page is courtesy of Seeing I.

The Recorder

The bespoke, custom-built recorder was developed for the specific needs of the Seeing I project. Through a two-year research and development process, the device went through various prototypes and substential testing, tackling the key challenges of durational recording from the first-person point-of-view, such as consistent battery supply, sufficient and continious video and audio processing, data storage and wearable ergonomics.

The final and third prototype is capable of continuous (up to 36 hours) 220x165 degree HD video and stereo audio recording from a first-person point-of-view. The system is designed with Raspberry Pis and in two parts; a head-mounted, custom-built camera rig with three Raspberry Pi Camera Modules and two microphones, and a body-mounted system with three Raspberry Pi computers and a battery supply.

In the summer of 2019, the recorder undergone final testing by successfully recording twelve people’s lives for a full day – from when they woke up in the morning till when they went to sleep. The recorded footage was then used for the 7-day, public trial-run of the Seeing I project at Ars Electronica 2019.

The Recorder was developed for the Seeing I project by Tadej Vindiš (System Design and Project Management), Frank Davies (System Design and Software Development) and Drew Richards (Prototyping, Manufacture and 3D Design).

The Recorder is planned to be made available as an open source build in the near future.



Ars Electronica 2019

In September 2019, Mark Farid wore a VR headset for seven consecutive days and nine continuous hours each day, as part of a 7-day, public trial run of the Seeing I project at the Ars Electronica festival. He was subject to sights and sounds of a different person each day, which has helped us determine the age, gender, and characteristics of the Other for the project in 2020:

Day 1: Mark Farid, 27, male. Artist.
Day 2: Romy Lewis, 18, female. Received her A-Level results the day before filming.
Day 3: Anonymous, 71, female. Art Historian and Lecturer.
Day 4: Lindsay Hogg, 22, female. Just finished university, unemployed.
Day 5: Liam Michaels, 22, male. Just finished university, Bartender.
Day 6: Jahan Jhala, 27, male. Farmer.
Day 7: Stefan Lutschinger, 50, male. Media Lecturer.

Each day, Farid watched the first-person point-of-view perspective of a person, for 9 continuous hours, watching them commute, eat and socialise. Farid was free to do as he pleased within the gallery space, so long as the headset remains on. At the end of each day when Farid took off the VR headset, he spoke to the project’s Clinical Psychologist Dr Tamara Russell about what he found difficult, engaging, and immersive. Throughout the trial run, Mark was additionally wearing a bio-sense harness developed by Ravensbourne University, which recorded his pulse, galvanic skin response, breathing, body and environmental temperature and humidity and acceleration/gyroscopic measurement on his wrist chest. On the final night of the performance, the trial-run concluded with a public conversation between Farid and Dr. Russel.

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