I am like a donkey ready to kick when startled, so you can be assured that reviewing a VR installation like ‘Joan Ross: Did You Ask the River?’ (JRDYATR) is nerve-racking.
However, there was no screaming on my part in JRDYATR; an immersive 360 experience that requires the use of a headset to explore a pre-colonial coastal setting yet to be ravished by Western civilisation.
A commentary on the destructive nature of consumption and colonisation, JRDYATR bounds its participant, a woman adorned in a canary yellow dress, in a small rectangular space loaded with an array of Mad Hatter-esque items each of which prompting their own chain of reactions.
In the ten or so minutes I had in JRDYATR, I was able to destroy the forest, (poorly) apply lipstick, breed what looked like 100 rabbits, take a selfie, and find a drawer loaded with cake that would have Marie Antoinette drop her jaw. Otherwise, I spent a lot of time wandering and wondering what there was to do next in the installation, with technical issues prohibiting me from interacting with certain elements and ultimately left me with feelings of frustration over how jarring and incomplete the experience was.
The current state of virtual reality is at the same place where Nokia was before the smartphone, and unfortunately, this is evident in JRDYATR with the installation having the look of a 90’s Nintendo 64 game with all the functionality issues of an 80’s Atari game.
All this being said, there is much promise for VR based installations, and though the experience with JRDYATR was troublesome, it speaks to exciting opportunities for future pieces to take full effect of the medium.
Joan Ross: Did You Ask the River? screens at ACMI from March 7th through to March 31st 10am-5pm daily. This is a free event. Find out more on the website here.