“I maybe have more of a connection to my avatar than I do to my physical self. That was the epitome of the person I wanted to become. I now want to be there all the time so I can be this person, especially to constantly relive the memory of realizing who I was. My VR self influences my real self and vice-versa. I’m fully integrated at this point.” - Silent
Silent and Radar, two transgender friends who spend most of their time on the virtual reality platform VR Chat, have found there a true sense of belonging. For many, this growing community of about 70.000 people has acted as a space to explore identity and overcome boundaries: walls, borders, language… And in this, to create an environment of limitless, fast-paced creative expression.
“It’s like the incomplete inners of a Game Boy; there’s another circuit board that should be there, further playing into this concussion allegory. You have the display and the screen still attached, everything that would be seen, but the guts and the brains of the Game Boy are missing. Which, funny enough, how would anyone know but me?”
Silent suffered a concussion in high school, which derailed much of her functioning for several years, until she found help through a neurofeedback training program. The many years that went untreated, Silent spent them gaming, web-diving, and playing the trumpet on tour with her high school band. These years were a prelude to her discovery of Virtual Reality, which — in her own words — saved her life.
Living in New York, Radar experiences VR as “a simulation of a world that doesn't have landlords.” The rent-stabilized apartment complex in which she lives with her parents and sibling is the only she has ever known. “I just turned 30, and I live in the same apartment that I've lived in my entire life. And I will never leave. Or rather, I want to leave, but I also can’t. I cannot afford to live anywhere in the city. When I walk around the Lower East Side, there’s a bunch of closed-down storefronts. I remember what used to be there. I walk and there's five weed stores that all have the same fake linoleum wood floor, and the same shitty neon signs.”
For them, it is never about the technology itself, but always about the human emotional need and how it is being satisfied.
Through these personal stories, Silent Radar explores the liminal space between physical and virtual reality.It confronts and blends the idea of the real and the non-real, the virtual and the tangible, the digital and the analog.
As such, this story goes beyond tech or the notion of ‘digital future’. Rather, it speaks to the idea of community — one not found in one’s immediate, real, surroundings.
When both realms start to merge, how is the ‘self’ defined? And what does it tell us about our real, tangible, world?