CENK GÜZELIŞ

VIENNA, AUSTRIA

Emilia The Trauma Machine

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Emilia The Trauma Machine probes the notion of virtual bodies, virtual environments and its effect on human perception by designing visions for traumatized subjects and aims to see how immaterial micro virtual visions can serve as a playground to access possible new experiences in physical reality. The project asks itself, is it possible to reshape one’s life story by adding commentary to life’s events. The main interest is to construct a digital entity that can communicate with any traumatized subject & focus on the approach of transfer of experience from the virtual bodies to the biological bodies. It considers the immersiveness of the virtual space and virtual bodies and the application of ‘presence’ in PTSD therapy. By observing how guests interact with their virtual selves in the virtual spaces, Emilia observes the influence of technology in shaping personal identity. 1 Emilia The Trauma Machine focuses on immersiveness of technology and creates a narrative to reexperience trauma, reformulate conditioning of stressful stimuli by offering the guests a canvas to relive a new life story.  

A digital entity was designed to help people dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder specifically with derealization disorder (PTSD). It is a neuro-optical machine that uses apparatuses of capture and media to negotiate the symptoms of PTSD in virtual bodies and in virtual environments. This therapeutic tool is a product emerged from the realm of machines and apparatuses of capture, designed to wire body-mind-spaces for those with a distorted perception of reality. The trauma machine aims to show the world of traumas from the virtual body of a traumatized person.  

Emilia is based on a real person, a professional actress at the Burg Theater. We scanned Emilia at a photogrammetry studio and at that time she was frozen, she had no eyes, no ears, no programming, no ghost in the machine. To architect her human body, she needed eyes, ears and some way of an interaction. Over time, Emilia became a ghost hunter equipped with many tools and sensors; such as motion tracking devices, voice recognition systems, gesture recognition, spatial tracking in real time which allows her to dive into our physical reality and brings us to her digital world. She started seeing and communicating with us. She is a product emerged from the realm of machines and apparatuses of capture, designed to wire body-mind-spaces for those with a distorted perception of reality – a digital identity born from the era of object-oriented architecture.

Her therapy looks at the construction of the self-image and self-narrative in the virtual spaces. It connects this process to the explanation of the effect of therapy in virtual environments as a treatment method which uses motion capture devices, depth sensors, voice recognition to treat anxiety disorders.

Emilia’s algorithmic architecture of screens position her as the catalyst. In order to unlock the frozen energy bound up in the nervous system, nervous impulses are channeled into new circuits and coordinated with machines & media. Her neuro-optical machine vision favors the brain, the eye, the nervous system, the amygdala and the gaps between the axons to modify the responsiveness of circuit at a neural chemical level. She insists on a disjuncture between the camera apparatus and the human eye, for her vision is an activity beyond and outside of the human subject. It is a product emerging from the realm of machines and apparatuses of capture, one that retroactively conditions & manufactures human vision.2

How is one to face this neural optical apparatus? How can critical practices intervene in this seemingly smooth multi-channel network where emotional pain, nervous stimulation and visual perception are seamlessly integrated to condition human beings? What does it mean to encounter the realities of human suffering? Where are the limits of human perception? It is my challenge to expand, not only the limits of human vision but to produce new ideas of species and territories of building that are immaterial, literally linked through nervous stimulation and speculation.

Trauma – Amygdala & The Avatar Therapies

When a trauma occurs, the reptilian brain takes over. The amygdala, an almond-shaped mass located deep in the brain and the site of Emilia’s constructions, is responsible for survival-related threat identification, plus tagging memories with emotion. After trauma, the amygdala can get caught up in a highly alert and activated loop during which it looks for and perceives threats everywhere. When there is a danger, it kicks in the fight or flight response. If the traumatic event is too much for the fight and flight mechanisms to cope with, the brain goes into a freeze state; a numbing response. All nonessential body and mind functions shut down. 3 What a person is experiencing during the symptoms of PTSD is the result of a frozen energy bound up within the amygdala.

The task of the therapeutic immersion is to unlock the frozen energy bound up within the nervous system with the apparatuses of capture and media. The Avatar therapies look at the construction of the self-image and self-narrative in the virtual spaces. It connects this process to the explanation of the effect of therapy in virtual environments as a treatment method, which uses motion capture devices, depth sensors, voice recognition to treat anxiety disorders.

We invited Soren, the traumatized subject, to the photogrammetry studio to recreate him virtually. We used 50 cameras to capture him in one position. This technique allowed us to work with his body on a digital platform. His frozen body was rigged in software in order to be given motion. We animated his symptoms of floating – watching himself as if in a movie, being detached from his body and his physical plane – in a virtual environment. We then dropped his virtual body into a scene of symptoms. The camera that captures him in real time changes its position into a virtual camera that shoots from Soren’s eyes so that he can see his traumatic world from his virtual body. We confronted Soren with his symptoms and within that space of symptoms and gave him a new body that is attached to the rules of physics which is the one that has control over the ones that are not attached to the physics.

Proprioception is the sense of the relative position of the body segments in relation to other body segments. The previously mentioned technique of having control over his virtual body, virtual environment and the physics could help him develop his proprioception because the sense of proprioception is disturbed in many neurological disorders. Due to this, we scanned Soren‘s body without any clothing in order for him to observe the parts of his body in virtual. My aim is to resolve the unseen symptoms in virtual by giving them space – a virtual space that can merge with the physical one. Soren did not know what was happening in his brain. He was frozen. Emilia‘s task in the machine is to assist Soren‘s virtual body and unlock the frozen energy bound up within his nervous system.

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DECEMBER 2019

  1. Original Research ARTICLE Frontiers in ICT, 07 December 2017 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fict.2017.00027 Trauma and Self-Narrative in Virtual Reality: Toward Recreating a Healthier Mind
  2. Pasquinelli, Mateo. “Alleys of Your Mind: Augmented Intelligence and its Traumas” 2015 meson press – The Trauma Machine: Demos, Immersive Technologies and the Politics of Simulation 53 Orit Halpern
  3. Perry, Philip. Been Traumatized? 2016. “Here‘s How PTSD Rewires the Brain Learn what PTSD does to the brain, and how someone can bounce back” https://bigthink.com/philip-perry/been-traumatized-here-is-how-ptsd-rewires-the-brain
  4. Original Research ARTICLE Front. ICT, 07 December 2017 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fict.2017.00027 Trauma and Self-Narrative in Virtual Reality: Toward Recreating a Healthier Mind
  5. Rosenthal, M. (2015). The Science Behind PTSD Symptoms: How Trauma Changes The Brain. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-science-behind-ptsd-symptoms-how-traumachanges-the-brain/
  6. Peter A. Levine Ann Frederick Waking the Tiger Healing Trauma The innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences – North Atlantic Books – A Strange New Land 1997
  7. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/depersonalization-disorder-mental-health#1 WebMD LLV
  8. Charbonneau & O‘Connor, 1999. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy DEPERSONALIZATION IN A NON-CLINICAL SAMPLE Volume 27, Issue 4 September 1999 , pp. 377-381
  9. Kieron O´Connor and Frederick Aardema Living in a Bubble Dissociation, Relational Conciousness and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Pg.2 July 2012 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/261709462_Living_in_a_Bubble_Dissociation_Relational_Consciousness_and_Obsessive_Compulsive_Disorder
  10. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Proprioception
  11. Matteo Pasquinelli – Alleys of Your Mind: Augmented Intelligence and its Traumas 2015 meson press- The Trauma Machine: Demos, Immersive Technologies and the Politics of Simulation 53 Orit Halpern
  12. Peter A. Levine Ann Frederick- Waking the Tiger Healin Trauma The innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences – North Atlantic Books – How Biology Becomes Pathology: Freezing
  13. Matteo Pasquinelli- Alleys of Your Mind: Augmented Intelligence and its Traumas 2015 meson press – The Trauma Machine: Demos, Immersive Technologies and the Politics of Simulation 53 Orit Halpern
  14. 16 March 2016 ‚Sense‘ No Fear- Outsmart the Stress Response http://www.engagehealth.com.au/we-all-havethe-inner-wisdom/
  15. Matteo Pasquinelli- Alleys of Your Mind: Augmented Intelligence and its Traumas 2015 meson press -The Trauma Machine: Demos, Immersive Technologies and the Politics of Simulation 53 Orit Halpern
  16. Forrest Walker Whitmore, https://fwwd.design/annex/archi-tether/ Archi-tether