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Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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Introducing the world’s first vore-tual reality installation

vore vr
Introducing the world’s first vore-tual reality installation

Vore is as niche of a fetish as one can get. Described most simply, vore is the desire to be personally eaten alive, or watch another creature get eaten alive. It’s an impossible fantasy to physically realize—and that’s part of its appeal. Sometimes this has a purely sexual connotation, sometimes it doesn’t. Canadian artist Jon Rafman has interpreted a unique analogy for the rare fetish in regards to the latter. To Rafman, vore isn’t simply sexual in its fantasy-bound state—it also represents the desire to be unbirthed, or to return home and feel safe again, in a sense. For the 9th Annual Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Rafman brought his fresh interpretation of vore to life through sculptures. And, of course, a handy-dandy Oculus Rift.

“both consuming, and being consumed by, virtual reality”

“[Vore] is an incredible analogy for our contemporary condition that’s also best expressed by virtual reality, which is this desire to be completely immersed in, and also consuming the media,” explained Rafman to bi-annual contemporary culture magazine 032c at the installation. “In this context, it works as a great parallel of the both consuming, and being consumed by, virtual reality.” VR represents the most immersion a person can experience. Where they are both the viewer, and being absorbed and entrapped by the content they experience.

Rafman’s installation sits perched on the balcony of Berlin’s Akademie der Künste, overlooking the Pariser Platz. Static sculptures of animals consuming other animals whole, crafted by Rafman, surround the viewer until they enter the virtual world through the Oculus Rift. The virtual world, as co-directed by Rafman and artist Samuel Walker, starts out a lot like the one on the balcony. Then it morphs into a different beast entirely. Fog eventually fills the viewer’s peripheral. The vore sculptures slowly topple over. Then the floor cracks beneath their feet and the viewer’s falling into an infinite abyss surrounded by eerie silhouettes, flopping in the wind. After three minutes, it’s abruptly over.

vore vr
Wading into a sea of flailing limbs.

Virtual reality is commonly an experience that we can’t escape. We’re locked into the headset, and whatever experiences it entails. We’re strapped in for the ride, regardless of what it is. Rafman and Walker take full advantage of the hardware in that regard, and tweak it to their artistic vision. Not everything is as it initially seems—and they become victim to it. In their twisted, vore-inhabited world, the viewer is consumed by the world they face, instead of by the creatures they see.

Not in Berlin? You can experience Rafman and Walker’s vore-tual reality from Vimeo.

rafman's sculptures
That seal’s having a good time, I think.
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