On February 22nd at Yale University, the renown German artist, filmmaker, and writer, Hito Steyerl, presented a speculative lecture aptly named Bubble Vision: Aesthetics of Isolation, which centered on the recent trend of orb-based aesthetics coming out of VR design culture. According to Steyerl, “Bubble Vision” refers to the markedly disembodied process of viewing the world through a parallel spherical multiverse. She highlighted the aesthetics current ubiquity by replicating the immersive experience offered by VR, constructing a 360˚ view of the hypothesis’ pervasiveness in our everyday lives.
Steyerl points out that in VR, the haptic interaction with spheres is a means of transporting oneself into a new space. With the same logic, she guides the audience through a series of curated images of bubbles which advance her hypothesis of their simultaneous importance and invisibility in contemporary culture. “Bubble Vision” is a framework that facilitates this shift, proposing to adapt us to a world where we’re slowly replaced by artificial intelligence systems.
While speaking about the unreliable nature of crystal balls, Steyerl projected the widely-circulated image of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and Donald Trump taking hold in unison to an illuminated globe at the opening of an anti-extremism center in Riyadh. The artist’s theory posits that our transformation into incorporeal forms is propelled by the current backlash against distorted presentations of information. Experiences are being designed as realist observations to claim authenticity. The isolation of VR, which allows for immersion in foreign spaces without consequences, has made it seem as though it’s an ideal presentation for genuine events. Orbs that appear too real, with too much ease, must not be automatically trusted. VR’s promotion of identity tourism only takes us out of the confusion of disinformation into a world of global isolation and escapism. The Earth seems flat from our perspective walking on its surface, Steyerl explains, just as from the inside of a filter bubble, the curvature, or subjective bias of one’s position, and can remain invisible.