I interviewed Close creator Hana Umeda at IDFA DocLab 2023. See more context in the rough transcript below.
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[00:00:05.412] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR podcast. It's a podcast that looks at the structures and forms of immersive storytelling and the future of spatial computing. You can support the podcast at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. So this is episode number 11 of 19 of looking at IFADocLab 2023, both the immersive nonfiction and digital storytelling experiences there. Today's episode is about a piece called Close by Hannah Omuda. So Close is an interactive 360 video documentary that is showing the Jutamai Japanese dance. And I'm just going to read this section from the synopsis. Jutamai is a dance full of contradictions. It gives the female performers a voice, but does not let them have their say. It emancipates Japanese women living in a strongly patriarchal society where they often go unheard, but does so by imposing strict rules. In addition, the dance is a form of accusation towards men, yet it takes an erotic form that confirms and stimulates the male gaze. So there's these different contradictions throughout the course of this piece, and it does it by juxtaposing the 360 video of this dance through three different perspectives, all muxed into a singular 360 video experience. But there are these hand gestures that you can do throughout the course of this piece. And when you do these different gestures, it flips in between one of three different audio tracks that you can see the same visuals, but you're getting a whole other layer of the story. And so one track, it's Hannah, who's talking about the history of Judah, my dance and sexual violence and sexual assault and all these different experiences of sexual trauma. And then the second piece is much more of a erotic phenomenological experience of what her own personal experience feels like as she's going through the dance. And the third one is just silence that you can just witness the dance without any additional sound design or other commentary. And so as you're watching this piece, it's going through three different angles and you're able to kind of use the hand gestures to flip in between what's being said. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Wizards of Europe podcast. So this interview with Hannah happened on Saturday, November 11th, 2023 at IFFIT.com in Amsterdam, Netherlands. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.
[00:02:21.207] Hana Umeda: Hello, my name is Hana Umeda. I am a performer, theater maker, and dancer, mostly of classical Japanese dance called Jiyutamai. And this was my first VR that I ever made. So I am very happy to be able to show it here in Amsterdam.
[00:02:42.336] Kent Bye: Great. Maybe you could give a bit more context as to your background and your journey into creating immersive VR work.
[00:02:49.298] Hana Umeda: I am primarily a traditional Japanese dancer, a jyutamai dancer, but I dance under the name Hanasaki Sada. It is the tradition in Japanese traditional performative arts that in order to become a professional, you have to be adopted by a family that holds the secret or holds the practice through generations. So, my adopted name is Sada Hanasaki and Sada is actually collaborating with Hana Umeda, the other me, the other Ego, a few projects actually, but here we are both performing in a VR, although this is Hana who is mostly directing it, I guess. As Hanna Umeda, I'm searching for more like a performative and also in the frame of theatre ways to use the Utamai dance as a performative tool. So actually, the space of VR for me was just maybe another space to perform, which is, of course, very different to a stage or a site-specific place. But on the other hand, every place is different. So it really gives a lot of dramaturgical and scenographical possibilities that maybe I could not exercise in real live performance.
[00:04:20.588] Kent Bye: Yeah, and so maybe you could talk a bit about how the specific virtual reality project came about then, working with the Visual Narratives Lab.
[00:04:28.651] Hana Umeda: The Łódź Film School in Poland, I guess they were interested in doing one of their VR being directed by someone who comes more from performative worlds than visual arts, film or video games. So yeah, I was invited by Łódź Film School and of course I was very happy to agree even though I had no experience with VR. Maybe I might wear a headset once before in some small exhibition of students in Polish Academy Awards. So it was a completely new medium for me, which is also very interesting to dive in from the point of total ignorance and to just imagine what possible tools can I use to make this work feel performative for me.
[00:05:32.796] Kent Bye: Yeah, and so you have this background in this traditional Japanese dance, and in the context of this VR piece, you are putting yourself in three different locations, but also three different costumes and dress and manifestations throughout the course of this dance. But you also have different audio tracks that you have that you can do a gesture to flip between. either silence or then two other narratives that you're giving an audio context for. So I'd love to hear you talk about how you're constructing and structuring this as a piece.
[00:06:07.325] Hana Umeda: So this piece is, I think, a point in a longer process in which I am focused on inherited trauma of sexual violence in the Utamai dance, but not only in this particular dance. This is maybe an example that I am working with and a technique that I am mostly embedded in. And so the thought behind clothes was to connect two levels which are important for me as a performer and as a Jutama dancer. One of which is the technique, the body that embodies sexual trauma that is passed through generations of dancers. Dziutamai is a specifically female practice and since 18th century it was practiced mostly by sex workers or geisha nowadays in small rooms. You would not show it on stage, you would show it to the clients in tea houses which were actually brothels in pleasure quarters. So the danger of being sexually assaulted is very high in this kind of situation. And if you look closely to the practice, to the physical technique of dance, there is a lot of tools to protect yourself, to close your thighs, to close your armpits, so no unwanted touch can get you to be really grounded, so it's more difficult to just push you to the floor but at the same time this was a place for emancipation in my eyes at least to the place where women who like Edo period and later Meiji period Japanese society very patriarchal society were in very disadvantaged positions and here they can tell their stories very intimate stories often show their emotions and their position in society. So this is the second level, the level in which the story can actually be communicated to the viewer. And it is often a very poetic story. That's why one of the soundtracks that you can listen to in VR Close is a narrative of this poetic journey within the particular dance, because in the Utamai dance every gesture has its meaning, every movement tells some sentence, let's say. So on one level you can just listen to the story that is told through generations by women, which is for me a very emancipating gesture. And on the second level you can listen to my thoughts, my story of embodying this sexual trauma from the previous generations of dancers, which is of course connected to the sexual violence that I or other women also experience here and now. So it is not something historical to bring up. And my hope was that according to what you hear, you can also perceive the dance a little bit differently, find some different qualities in what you are seeing. But there is also an option to not listen to anything, just focus on the pretty dance movement and maybe not bother yourself with all of this heavy stuff. Although at the end I try to find a way to also break this very stiff and formal body position that is kept and that I am keeping within the dance and to somehow free myself.
[00:10:30.591] Kent Bye: Yeah, and so I'd love to hear you maybe elaborate on how you came about to decide to allow people to switch between these audio tracks by giving a certain hand gesture that you're able to detect and then once you detect it then you're allowing the viewer to choose which soundtrack they're listening to. You're seeing the same visuals throughout the piece but you have the ability to modulate your experience by doing this hand gesture that then allows you to switch between one of these three soundtracks. So I'd love to hear your process of deciding that you're going to do that and then integrating those hand gestures and then how to give the feedback to the users that they've successfully switched and that it was accurately detected with all the variety of different things that I imagine with hand tracking to accurately be able to track it and to make sure that both the experience knows but also the user knows that they've been able to successfully have this hand gesture.
[00:11:24.321] Hana Umeda: What was important and interesting for me was the way to communicate with the viewer, which is a kind of communication on a very different level that I would have as a live performer. And I was interested in giving the viewer agency to also choose what kind of story they want to experience. because maybe I didn't want to just enforce it on anyone or make it possible for people to be able to maybe not listen to things that can be, I don't know if trigger or just not interesting for them. So the idea was to have this communication and for me it is the The first idea I can have because of my practice in Japanese classical dance in which we use gestures to communicate. And every gesture has its meaning, but also you can interpret it yourself sometimes. It's not as fixed as, for example, in Indian classical dances. So to find the body posture, a gesture, was somehow a very natural decision for me as a dancer. And the gestures that I took, that I am teaching the viewer in the beginning of the experience, are somehow taken from the dance that I am performing. So also my hope was to maybe have a little bit of feeling of community maybe with people who are also making it even though it's just one or two or three gestures that they would perform. But it's already dance, at least for me, sitting in a very focused way. And I am also always so happy to see people performing those gestures and people really try to do it very precisely. It's not like this, I don't know what I am doing kind of movement, but really precise, clear image. So this is also kind of a way to maybe dance together with a person who experiences the VR.
[00:13:54.439] Kent Bye: Yeah. And so in this piece, there's also with one of the different audio tracks, there seemed to be a little bit more of a spatialized audio because you have the dance that's happening in front of you. And then all of a sudden it starts to shift to be behind you. And then there's like three different locations that are forming a triangle of different iterations. And so maybe you could talk about those different iterations. I try to remember if there was different dress or whether different meaning for those different locations.
[00:14:22.001] Hana Umeda: Yes, there is a lot of myself in the VR. So I am dancing the same dance throughout this experience. It is called Kikunotsuyu and it's a dance connected with death or passing or disappearing of someone close to our heart. And I am performing this dance in, let's say, three outfits, one of which is full kimono, which is not the most elaborated way you can dress for a stage because, of course, in Japan I would also use a wig and a white makeup and a kimono that is much bigger, like stage kimono, but within the fashion that we operated with. It was not possible. But still, it is like a proper kimono, or in a very proper way, as I could easily perform publicly in this kind of kimono and hairstyle. The second one was white yukata. Yukata is a cotton kimono, and it is used mostly to train. So it is like a training gear. It is a little bit thinner, not as elaborated as a full kimono. And this outfit, let's say for me, it represents the kimono, the first one, would represent the level of performance, of showing the dance to other people. So the level of communicating something that is mine to the outside. The second level, the level in yukata, so in this white cotton kimono, for me it represents the practice which is more than performing in front of the viewers, of the audience, it's connected with transgenerational communication within the dance tradition, because every time I practice a particular dance, every time I practice a particular movement, I am somehow reaching through my master, from whom I am learning it, to her master and the master above her and all those generations of women who would practice it and pass it to their students. So this level of practice for me is a level of transgenerational community that is created within this practice. And the last one, the third one, I am dancing the same dance but not wearing a kimono at all. I am not naked in this piece, but I am showing a lot of body, especially compared to how it is supposed to be presented in the kimono that covers almost everything. And for me, this is the level of the way of using the body, so not only the practice of telling the story and the practice of properly performing particular gestures, but also what happens inside the body, within the body, all the contractions that close it somehow, the closed armpits that try to prevent your body from the unwanted touch, the closed legs that protect you from someone's hand just slipping inside. So within the same dance, within the same very traditional choreography and very beautiful story, I try to focus my attention on those three levels of experiencing the dance.
[00:18:21.958] Kent Bye: Yeah, yeah. I found that when I first saw the piece, I learned the different gestures and I was actively, as I was watching it, jumping between those different audio tracks. But I found that the first track where you're giving much more of a narrative story and context that I felt like I was missing too much jumping in and out. Like I actually stopped the experience because I was watching it at home. I started again and just watched it all the way through listening to one track and then watched all the way through listening to the second track and then jumped into a little bit of the track where there was no audio but there wasn't additional narrative components and so I didn't watch it the third time after that. But what I noticed was that the more poetic one where you're in some ways describing either like a phenomenological experience from your own experience or just really giving this way for people to tune into this, like you said, much more poetic version of this context as you're elaborating. And that felt like easier to jump in and out because it was in the moment of what the experience was, but I felt like there was a certain time-based context that I was missing if I was jumping in and out of the first audio track. So yeah, I'd love to hear any reflections on as you've created this now, if you feel like if it works to jump in and out of some of them or you know just some of the different trade-offs that you may have of being able to have these different layers of the story but sometimes if you miss a little bit of the story then it's hard to pick up on.
[00:19:46.864] Hana Umeda: I am actually very happy to hear that from you or to see that it works this way because This is exactly how it is in reality when we, as women, want to say something. Patriarchal society men would not necessarily listen to us from the beginning to the end and not necessarily focus on what we have to say. and you would get easily distracted with other things which are maybe easier, prettier, something. And it is not easy to talk about our experience and, you know, I come from Poland, we have a total abortion law, we have very anti-women, we used to have very anti-women government, which is... now changing the situation is changing but still it seems like the women rights are still somehow most difficult to comprehend that half of the society is equal to the other half so what you say about not listening to everything and then thinking I didn't get something it is actually what happens in society for me so I will be very happy if you after one or two or the third time, you decide to just listen to everything that I have to say. Maybe even deciding that, well, at the same time, you will not experience something else because you have to focus on this. So, yeah.
[00:21:30.435] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think for me, in a festival context, you oftentimes wouldn't have that opportunity. You would have to decide and to jump back and forth. But I'm glad I just had the opportunity to be able to go back and listen to it, just to be able to hear it from beginning to end. So yeah, but it's really interesting the fact that the ability to choose is recreating these dynamics of the experience of not being heard or listened to. And then in the piece there's actually this whole other last section where you're going through and eating different watermelons. It's very visceral scenes and I'd love to hear you maybe elaborate on the symbolism or what you were trying to achieve in the last part because it takes a pretty definitive tonal shift from the first part. So I'd love to hear you talk about this second part where there's again like three different
[00:22:17.937] Hana Umeda: Sections that you're going through and eating these different watermelons and again having very spatialized sound that is helping to direct the attention But yeah, I'd love to hear you talk about that part yes, so I also realized that this work is shown in Europe and that Japanese context is maybe not like the easiest or the most obvious one to read and And that there is always this danger of orientalizing the image or of putting some cliches that you have about Japanese culture, even if you are a very educated person, I think. People in Europe also, of course, know some things about Japanese culture. They don't know everything, but why should they? It is so far away. The fact is that people in Japan also don't know everything about European culture, so it's fine. But there is, at least in the art world maybe, but I think that a part of this image of geisha, which I am, of course I am reproducing it, because I work with this particular dance practice, but it falls in some cliche. And I was thinking about other cliches that operate also in the art world in Europe. And I was thinking about Araki, Japanese photographer. There is this famous photograph of Araki, who is very famous in the West as an artist, as a photographer, and at the same time is objectifying women to the extent that is almost unbearable for me, but also very sexy and very beautiful. So I was thinking about this one famous photo taken by Araki. in which a girl wearing yukata, summer kimono, squats in front of the watermelon and eats it. And it is very sexual. And of course you want to fuck this girl. But there is something maybe also dark within this image. And this cliché of art, contemporary art, but still objectifying women, also coming from Japan, was something that I wanted to work with in the end to maybe use another cliché of Japanese culture, but a different one that is maybe not so connected to traditional art. So I recreate the action of eating watermelon, of course, putting the watermelon juice all over my body. but it comes from the more emancipated position, at least for me in it, because the watermelon also refers to Japanese custom. There is a play called Suikawari and children, but also adults, I think they would play it in the summer. One person has like a blindfold on their eyes and they hold a stick. And the task is that they have to break a melon with the stick. And the other people or the other children would tell him which way to go. So this refers, of course, to this summer play, summer custom. But here I don't wear any blindfolds. I can see where the watermelons are. And I just come to destroy them. eat them also because there is something for me in watermelon in this very fleshy red color that it has connected to some it is almost like eating meat no like for me there is also like some connection to the body in this interacting with a watermelon itself. And this body which in this scene can be liberated from the clichés, orientalizing clichés that are put on me as a Japanese dancer working in Europe, from the clichés of woman that will try to explain what I need, what are my objectives, but nobody will listen to me anyway. And from the objectives of this body that is closed, that is also in need of protecting itself. Because in this scene I don't have to protect myself from anybody. If anything, maybe you have to protect yourself from me.
[00:27:21.162] Kent Bye: Well, you talked about how you have a background in these classical forms of Japanese dance and also theater. And this last part feels a little bit more like performance art or it's much more of a theatrical experience, especially with all the specialized sound, because you're, again, looking in different directions and you're able to be in a similar situation of the previous section where you have like three different sections that these different scenes are unfolding. And again, you're going into these, Three different triangle spaces like 120 degrees each that you're able to see these scenes play out So love to hear any reflections on the influences from either Performance art or dance that you're bringing into this last section as well It's just breaking and eating watermelons Yeah, I'd love to hear you maybe elaborate on using like a stereoscopic camera with Canon. So I'd love to hear if that's the thing that you're using or if it's just using 2D images that are put into a spatialized experience.
[00:28:30.947] Hana Umeda: We use this 180 degree Canon camera with two lenses, so stereoscopic camera. Yes, what I was also thinking about watching VR for the first time is what it can give in the experience of dancing for people that I cannot gain in the live performance is being very close to someone. because I would never dance as close to you as I am in the VR. It's like, I don't know, maybe one meter or one meter and a half. So we tried to create this space using some small things that are flying in the air or putting some objects and giving you hands that you need to communicate with me, to give this sense of being in a very closed space together. Also, you are surrounded by me, by people who are quite close to you, but you cannot really move. If you stand and go somewhere, the image will just move with you, so you are stuck in this closed little space.
[00:29:47.205] Kent Bye: Yeah, the piece is called Close, and you talked about being close and closer than you normally would. Maybe you could elaborate on the title and what that means for you to achieve this type of closeness or intimacy in a VR piece like this.
[00:30:02.413] Hana Umeda: I feel that Utamai is built on closeness and intimacy, which is not as close as it is here in VR. But the idea is there. So VR really gave me the opportunity to boost this physical closeness to someone. And it is possible only because there is no actual physical closeness. Only because there is no actual body of mine, which is there. So for me the title Close is referring on the one side to this space in which we are close to each other and we can communicate, you can hear me whisper, you can listen to what I have to say, but also you don't have to. It is your choice. On the second level, close is also a command, like close your armpits, close your thighs, close your body so you are not attacked. And also close your mouth, no? You never speak while dancing. And I heard so many times, no? Like, close your mouth, don't speak. You are too loud. This is the experience of women across the world. So this closed mouth that is opening at the end, but it's also an element of title. And of course also this closed space from which you cannot escape.
[00:31:44.830] Kent Bye: Yeah, that's a lot of levels of both close and close. That's both ways that didn't pick up on that when I first watched it. But I guess another dimension of this piece that you were just elaborating on a little bit is that normally when this is performed, you're not speaking and you don't have an opportunity to share what might be going on in your head. but in this VR piece you're able to add what might be going through your head and different thoughts as you're going through the dance but also much more the phenomenological, the poetic aspect of the feeling of it where one is more of like intellectual or the thoughts or the ideas and the one is more of the experience and the embodiment and the visceral feeling of the dance and so Yeah, I'd love to hear you talk about the opportunity for NVR to add these additional layers of your narration and your story and your experience that you're able to share where normally when you're performing it you're not able to.
[00:32:40.905] Hana Umeda: So, yes, of course, if I perform in a traditional way, I never speak. In my own artistic practice, I speak a lot while dancing. I very often put text on the choreography and use this opportunity of movement to place the words that I want to communicate. But within the live performance, I can only say one thing at the same time. So it was also interesting for me in VR that I don't have to do it physically at the spot, that my words can go along with the movement and to happen at the same time differently. So it's not my choice anymore which one is perceived. It is a little bit like this fantasy of being able to speak with your mouth and speak with your stomach, belly? Your gut, yeah. there is this technique, no? And just have this overlapping two narratives or even dialogue within yourself that can happen at the same time. And here it is just possible within the technology.
[00:34:04.137] Kent Bye: Yeah, what's really striking to me is just that the form that you've created here is to really speak at many different layers of the multi-dimensional aspect of your experience. You can watch the physical embodiment of the dance, you can hear the emotionality and the physicality of what's going on in your own experience, but also hear these deeper narratives that you're speaking around, you know, the multi-generational aspects of sexual trauma connected to the dance that you're elaborating. And so you're able to use VR as a medium to allow people to pick and choose which channel they want to tune into. Yes. Yeah, love to hear what was the catalyst for you to come across this idea or the thing that started it, the inspiration or this moment where you decided that VR would have the capacity to address the multidimensional layers of experience for people to tune into these different channels.
[00:35:01.573] Hana Umeda: Oh, I guess it comes from the other way around. When you are in the artistic process that is longer, you... Just grab every chance that you have to show some point of this process. So I never imagined myself doing VR. It was never something that I wanted to do, fantasize about doing, writing applications to get funding to do it, because that's how it works when you're a freelance artist. But somehow the opportunity came and it felt very interesting for me to try to express myself as I would do in any other way at this point within this particular medium that was just put in front of me. But I treated mostly like a space that I was given to work. It's like the same thing would be if a particular theatre or gallery or other venue would invite me to present the work that I am busy with at the time within their space, and then I have to go and look at it and imagine, OK, what can I do with this? How can I deal with what I get to express what I already wanted to express? So yes, it was a very interesting space to enter and I would love to explore it even more in the future. But it was very unexpected.
[00:36:47.015] Kent Bye: Yeah, one other quality of this experience that I was really noticing was the lighting because you have yourself being shot in stereoscopic that ends up being billboarded and put into these basically 120 degree sections that are like a circle split into three and so In the Unity scene, you have one spotlight that's shown, but you have three different angles, and so I'd just love to hear you elaborate on the lighting, because that was another distinctive aspect of this experience, for how the light was able to illuminate the performance.
[00:37:20.318] Hana Umeda: Yes, it was important for me when we shoot a film that the space that we are creating is consistent in terms of light. So we wanted to create this effect that you really can walk around and have this impression that the source of light in this space is one. like we used light on set in the ways that can then after editing the movie into 360 degree space so that the light would still be consistent.
[00:37:57.401] Kent Bye: Yeah, it gives us a consistent lighting where it I was noticing that it was consistent like if you had the same lighting in each of the three Versions of yourself, and I think it would have been less plausible But it gives this sense of plausibility that it actually is like three of you that are like triplets you know in some ways like the same iteration of yourself in that same space within the virtual space and
[00:38:20.407] Hana Umeda: Yes, but it was also very analog. You know, we were putting the lights on set, of course. And then there were some experiments on the way to maybe put a moon in place of the lamp. And it looked pretty, but for me, it was from the very beginning, it was very obvious that It has to be this theater setting. It has to be a normal lamp that we would hang in the theater. And nobody has to pretend that it's not there. So in the experience, you can actually see this. It's just a lamp. It's nothing special, actually. But it is how the lamp worked during the performance.
[00:39:11.312] Kent Bye: And I noticed that the different audio tracks had different layers of spatialization. So the one where you're sharing more of a deeper story of the intergenerational sexual trauma is actually spatialized so that when the second character came in, then I have to look away from the first character to look at the second character. And you're dancing all these in synchrony in these different outfits. And so what was interesting to then watch it in the more poetic, Version that there wasn't as much spatialization. So I found myself Looking to the other ones once the other character had disappeared Because you have these editing in and out of these different characters and that there's overlaps between there And so I found myself having to turn away and look away but then watching it the second time watching it to the end and then picking up on the other characters as they're coming in and out so I I felt like that actually ended up giving me an ability to watch the experience in different ways each time that I watched it. But yeah, I'd love to hear any other commentary on the sound specialization that you were able to achieve in this piece.
[00:40:15.728] Hana Umeda: Yes, that's true. The narration that is maybe, let's say, more political, if you want, is narration said with the normal voice, like speaking voice. That's why it was also easier to put this voice on the different places in space. So it can really lead you, you can already know that the new character appeared and you still listen to the story, just turning around and watching the dance. With this more poetic story, I wanted to whisper it, I wanted to make it more intimate and I somehow also wanted to get even closer to the viewer, to my audience in the VR. But with Whisper it's just in your ear, no? So I think it's also a different experience of communicating, listening to someone in the space, not only in terms of where do you turn, but also how close you are to the person who is telling you something. And there is also the sound level created by Jan Tomza-Osiecki, which is somehow for me supporting the narrations that I am giving, but also not taking too much focus out of what I want to say. It's a very ambient or like drawn music that works more as a support for me than like a competition. And also there is a song by Maria Magdalena Kozłowska that accompanies my more performative physical emancipation. So yes, I was really thinking about the sound level of the experience as an interactive and as a level from which I can explore more of what VR has to offer. The video is always the same. Although you watch it differently, you decide which part will you watch longer, which part will you watch shorter. So I was really hoping for the kind of effect that Because when you put the headset, you are the only person on the audience, which is also very interesting for me, the situation where I perform, but only for one person. So I also really wanted to use this opportunity to maybe make this performance different for every person who is watching it. So you can change the narration, you can change the sound, you can change the image that you are looking at. So hopefully it can be different every time.
[00:43:16.658] Kent Bye: For sure, yeah. It's definitely different every time I watched it, even the three times that I watched it. So, yeah. Yeah, and I guess, finally, I'd love to hear what you think the ultimate potential of virtual reality and its potential to capture these types of immersive dance and art performances and what it might be able to enable.
[00:43:36.693] Hana Umeda: I think it's an interesting space for a performer. much better than film because it gives you opportunity to operate within this 3D or 30-60 degree space which is essential for a live performance. I have to admit that at the beginning when I was starting to work on this piece and I was only starting to learn about VR and what it is, of course I went to a movement capture studio and saw how it works, how is it possible to catch and recreate the movement within a generated image. But I have to admit that there was something so sad for me. I felt that I am giving away my movement and my body and that this is not my body anymore. Even if you recreate it very realistically, it would be even worse. That's why I decided that it has to be filmed because at least you can see the real body of mine and not some image that I can have in my head or somebody else can. So I would feel like there is a danger in terms of performativity in VR with using motion-captured generated movement. It is a very controversial thing for me as a performer and as a body that makes art. But the fact of creating this artificial space, creating this spatial sound, being able to interact with a member of audience one-on-one is very interesting. Awesome.
[00:45:28.445] Kent Bye: Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?
[00:45:38.126] Hana Umeda: It is very nice to meet you guys. Hi.
[00:45:46.982] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, really appreciated close and all the different innovations that you're able to do with the gesture based audio channels that you have in this piece and all the different layers of the story you're able to tell and allowing people to kind of remix it and Yeah, very visceral piece overall and very intimate in a lot of ways. And yeah, just really appreciated all the different ways that you're able to translate your practice into VR. And really glad you have an opportunity to be able to explore with the medium and what it's able to do. And I feel like you're able to add a lot of really interesting innovations to what the medium can do. So yeah, thanks again for taking the time to help share a little bit more of your story and experiences worth working with VR and creating close. So thank you.
[00:46:27.945] Hana Umeda: Thank you. It was very nice to talk to you.
[00:46:30.522] Kent Bye: So that was Hannah Omuda, and she did a piece called Close, which was showing at IFADOCLAB 2023. So of a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, well, I love, love, love the idea of being able to switch between different audio tracks to tune into different dimensions of whatever might be happening with an experience. You know, one of the audio tracks is very much from this first person embodied phenomenological experience of what it feels like. It's very sensual as you listen to it. And then another track is much more political and reflecting on different dimensions of sexual violence and the patriarchy and giving a lot of history and context of the Judaimite dance and how it has been connected to sexual violence. And then another option where you just don't hear anything at all. And so there are the different gestures that are tied into the dance. And so you are mimicking different dimensions of the dance to be able to flip in between the commentary. The actual experience of this, I found that the more phenomenological ones I could dip in and out because it was very much in the moment for what was happening. And I could switch to that channel and get immediately caught up to what was happening. But if I switch back to the other channel that was talking about these deeper political issues around sexual violence, it was harder for me to kind of pick up some of the context of what was immediately said right before that, that I missed. And Hannah actually was very happy to hear that because she was saying that it's kind of mirroring different dimensions of how oftentimes, even when women are speaking up about their experiences, that that's not often received or fully heard by society. And so in some ways, the way that the structure and form of this piece is created is trying to replicate different dimensions of that. I had a chance to watch this at home. So I had an opportunity to just kind of watch it multiple times all the way through to be able to get the full context of all the different channels of information. But when you're watching it within the context of a festival, then you have to make this choice as to which one you're gonna really start to pay attention to. So kind of a really provocative idea and also just reflecting upon how even the structure and form of that, even if you're missing something is kind of also reinforcing some of the deeper message of what she's trying to get across as well. And so yeah, it's just this really interesting fusion of using the 360 video or actually using like the stereoscopic 180 capture, but it's muxed together within the context of a 360 environment. And I got these ways that you can use your hand tracking gestures to flip in between the different dimensions of the audio tracks. Lots there when you start to think about the future of augmented reality and virtual reality in these multi-channel experiences and giving agency for the audience member to tune into different radio channels as it were to tap into different contextual dimensions of whatever might be happening within whatever story or experience that you're watching So yeah, lots of really provocative ideas that are going to stick with me. And it's going to be something that I'll be referring to probably in the future as well. So that's all I have for today. And I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a list of supported podcasts. And so I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. You can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. Thanks for listening.