#849 DocLab: Preserving Avant-garde Digital Culture & VR Embodiment Explorations with Ali Eslami’s “Nerd_Funk”


Ali Eslami
is an Iranian VR creator whose livelong project is an ever-expanding virtual city called False Mirror, and he was showing off the latest edition at IDFA DocLab called Nerd_Funk. Nerd_Funk is a surrealistic, guided tour through an spatialized interpretation of his social media landscape. Eslami collaborated with video installation artist Mamali Shafahi to archive the Instagram stories from over 600 of their avant-garde artist friends who are using these ephemeral stories to document their artistic experiments including the modulation of their sense of identity and embodiment through augmented reality filters.

Eslami takes a very VR architectural-inspired approach to archiving a cross section of artists who are experimenting with new modes of identity augmentation by placing these videos within a spatialized context that mirrors the different categories and topics that they assigned to the videos. He’s also playing with virtual embodiment in interesting ways as you are holding a virtual phone within this experience that sends push notification haptic buzzes that connects you to your body throughout the experience, and also provides a whole other layer of context and meaning by sending you videos and art that’s related to the world around you. It manages to evokes a very familiar Pavlovian-response of receiving these types of texts and push notifications, but it’s all completely recontextualized as you float through these spatialized art installations that explore different modes of embodiment in VR.

I had a chance to talk to Eslami at the IDFA DocLab about his journey into VR, some of his deeper design intentions with Nerd_Funk, why he believes that VR will potentially render science fiction to be dead, and his worldbuilding process that he hopes to continue throughout his artistic career in order to create virtual archives of his life as an immersive artist, but also to help create a larger spatialized context to reflect upon the ephemeral nature of avant-garde experimentation with self-destructing Instagram stories. You can follow the Nerd_Funk Instagram account to keep tabs on this project.


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Music: Fatality