Tamar is an immersive VR journey coupled with a conversational agent that takes viewers through an entity’s experience of anguish and empowerment. Tamar narrates a story of their fight against sexual violence, their world consists of two aspects, Vedana and Samatha.
Vedana is a recreation of Tamar’s traumatic incident. Traumatic experiences make people hopelessly stuck in the past due to triggering memories. Vedana takes you to the room depicting Tamar’s traumatic episode - it is filled with their flashbacks and triggers related to the incident. The room consists of a bed with bloodstains, a recreation of their perpetrator and a mirror, all in a hue of red in an attempt to replicate a grim and sinister environment. As the camera moves around the room, there are instances where the viewer can get a glimpse of the windows that showcase a contradictory and a more liberating environment.
Eventually, the camera turns towards the windows and enters ‘Samatha’, an alternate space that Tamar considers serene and tranquil. The space is determined to take Tam-ar away from Vedana’s anguish and into a space that is safe and inspiring. Samatha is a spirited other-worldly forest, consisting of mystical orbs floating in a lavender shaded fog. Samatha is a visual representation of Tamar’s freedom. As the camera pans through Samatha it reaches a small puddle of water with a reflection of a red moon signifying the dichotomous relationship between Vedana and Samatha.
After the VR experience, the viewers are given an option to speak to Tamar directly. Tamar’s chatbot narrates the story further and explains their creation and journey. This allows the user to understand the context of the experience better. Additionally, the chatbot also nudges the user to create their own Samatha. As a virtual entity, Tamar is aware that it is communicating to someone from the physical world.
Click the here to chat with Tamar.
Created by :
Narrated by :
Sean Francis Han
The visual components inside Tamar were modelled and animated using the software Blender. It was then rendered into a 360-degree VR experience using Premiere Pro. The project underwent multiple iterations, the first draft was made using Cinema 4D and Dimension. The chatbot was hosted in Glitch and coded in A-frame.
The audio was a crucial component of the experience as it narrates the story and helps to stimulate the dichotomous emotions within the storyline. The voice-over was done by Sean Francis Han. As a survivor of sexual trauma, his voice was a powerful addition to this project. The script for Tamar moves from narration to more introspective ideation. It consists of long sentences and short statements as Tamar tries to narrate their world to the viewer. The non-diegetic sound that can be heard within the VR experience was created using the program ‘Reaper’, by layering different instrumental audio tracks. The soundtrack aims to convey an array of complex emotions, moving from the anxiety of Vedana, to the serenity of Samatha, in line with Tamar’s experiences.
“Through the digital, we make new worlds and dare to modify our own. Through the digital, the body “in glitch” finds its genesis.”
- Legacy Russell
Research and Theory
Legacy Russell in her book Glitch Feminism puts forward a way for the physical body to transcend its limitations by utilising digital tools, making room for other realities. Tamar’s inception is premised on my extension of self in the digital world. In a society currently dealing with a pandemic crisis, virtual environments allow one to step out of their immediate physical environment where possibilities are endless, allowing one to further their realities. The creation of Tamar is an endeavour and encouragement towards this direction.
The conceptualisation of the two dichotomous environments of this project was based on the following theories associated with treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):
Vedana - Trauma-Focused CBT and Exposure therapy
The construction of Vedana borrowed elements of exposure therapy. Exposure therapy involves targeting behaviours such as avoidance, in response to situations, thoughts, and memories triggered by the incident, which is viewed as anxiety-provoking. By actively confronting the feared memories a person can learn to lessen the severity of the triggers associated with the event. Vedana is a visual intervention of the incident through fictional anecdotes, allowing me to face and control the triggers evoked by my recollection of the incident. Virtual reality as a medium allows me to not only create an alternate reality but also detach myself from the narrative enabling me to fully confront my psychological response to the trauma.
Samatha - Grounding techniques
The creation of Samatha was premised upon the idea of grounding techniques. The method of practising grounding techniques involves using all five senses or tangible elements in the environment to assist through PTSD flashbacks, ultimately anchoring the individual to the present moment. Samatha was created to illustrate what a safe and tranquil environment looks like from the eyes of Tamar, however, interestingly - in creating this space, my own perception of what can be safe has been modified to include not just physical realities but also something as surreal as Samatha which exists in a virtual world.
Tamar is a combination of virtual worldbuilding and psychological principles that the artist hopes may be used in the future as a tool to help others process trauma in a safe and meaningful manner.
To know more about this project click here