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Virtual Reality: Artist Eric Green
by Kay Daly
Intro | Bodies and Big Brother | Roxy To Reiki | Life Is Digital

Bodies and Big Brother
As the child of a registered nurse, it's perhaps inevitable that Eric's artwork strives to bring embodiment to virtual media. Due to her influence, Eric studied biomedical ethics at Brown University in Rhode Island. During his first summer, she helped him land a job as a medical surgical technician. "I got to assist with surgery and carried amputated limbs to the morgue," he recalls, "things you wouldn't expect 18-year-olds to be able to do."

Eric decided not to stay in medicine, but this early experience seems to have sparked a fascination with the idea of "embodiment," of the ability to make ideas concrete, as real as our bodies. He went on to study theater and digital art, and in these fields began to explore ways to blur the boundaries between a "virtual" medium and real world. Working in "environmental theater," Eric designed productions that expand the world of the play to engulf the viewer. He explains, "A lot of my set designs involve taking over an entire space, whether it’s a warehouse or a blackbox theater. Everything is converted into the world of the play."

His most extensive exercise in environmental theater was a production of George Orwell's 1984, which he developed during his years at Brown. To expand the world of the play, he created a set that took over an entire building and even spilled over into the sidewalk. In Orwell's novel, the central government, or "Big Brother," constantly rewrites history and forces citizens to live in a state of continual warfare against constantly shifting enemies. Eric brought this world to life for his audience by dressing his set with war posters that changed throughout the play to reflect Big Brother's constantly shifting version of reality.

To bring his viewers even more fully into the world of the play, he had his audience members sign for tickets when they arrived at the theater. The names were then recorded onto a cassette and played back during the production. "When we moved into a scene set in a prison, we worked the audience names into the roll call of all of the prisoners in order to pull them into the space." By populating his theatrical world with the real names of audience members, Eric forced his audience to question where the stage ended and their "real" world began.

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