Man Wants to Live as Somebody Else for 28 Days Using Virtual Reality Headset

British performance artist Mark Farid wants to spend one month living as another person. He has set up a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project, called “Seeing-I”, and if he succeeds in collecting $235,000, he plans to wear a virtual reality headset through which he will experience life through another person’s eyes and ears for 28 days.

According to the campaign page, “For 24 hours a day for 28 days, artist Mark Farid will wear a Virtual Reality Headset through which he will experience life through another person’s eyes and ears – this person will be referred to as ‘the Other’. Mark has had no previous relationship with this person; he is only aware that the Other is a heterosexual male, who is in a relationship. The Other is required to wear a pair of glasses that covertly capture audio and video. This footage will then be watched back by Mark, who will inhabit a space consisting of only a bed, a toilet and shower area. This area, as well as Mark will be on constant display to the audience.”

So whatever the Other experiences in life, Mark will too – like being stuck in a doctor’s waiting room for hours, partying on a weekend, and even going to the loo, of course. The only human contact that Mark will have is one hour per day with a psychologist, who will observe and listen to him without saying a word.


Photo: Arebyte Gallery

Seeing-I is such a bizarre project that it could leave Mark mentally altered for life, a fact that he’s perfectly aware of. Yet, he’s still willing to go through with it, because he wants answers to a debate that he believes has raged on through human history – Nature or Nurture. He wants to know if we humans are pre-programmed by our genes to behave in a certain way, or if our environment inspires us to be who we are.

“It’s to see if who we are is an individual identity, or if there is just a cultural identity that kind of takes us on,” Mark explained. “I’ve grown up in the city my whole life. So everything that I’ve seen – the square gardens that we have, the tree that’s planted in that specific place, the way the wind travels down the road, all of that is artificially created. Every experience that we’re having is synthetic.” He also revealed that the project is inspired by his readings in philosophy and the works of Josh Harris, an internet entrepreneur who was fascinated with total, 24-hour surveillance.


Photo: Arebyte Gallery

So over the course of 28 days, if Mark slowly begins to believe that he is his ‘avatar’, and forget all about the identity of ‘Mark’, it could shed light on several aspects of human behavior. In order to achieve the most accurate results, he will be allowed to shower, use the toilet, sleep and eat only when the Other does. He will consume the exact same food and drink. He can move around the small room as he wishes, but there won’t be much for him to do except observe the Other.

In order to prepare for the role, Mark has been seeing a psychologist for the past year. A different psychologist will work with him during the project, but he’ll return to the original therapist for a post-project analysis. None of these counsellors were available for comment, in order to maintain confidentiality.


Photo: Arebyte Gallery

Dr. Lara Frumkin, a psychologist, did express concern for Mark’s wellbeing. She said that his personality could be changed forever by this, and he could potentially never go back to who he is right now, or he may not want to. One of Mark’s closest friends, Hamish, is worried for his eyesight, specifically whether his perception of light is going to change. “He’s going to acclimatise to seeing pixels all the time – even if they are HD pixels,” Hamish said.

But Mark appears quite confident and relaxed, and he plans to stop the project if it proves to be too harmful to his life. “This is not an endurance test,” he said. “If it’s going too far and going too bad, and are going to be detrimental things to my health, or eyesight, or mental health … I’ll be told to take the virtual reality glasses off, and the project ends there. I’m not going to harm my long-term life for this project.”


Seeing-I will take place in a yet-to-be confirmed public space, that will be open to visitors (including Mark’s friends and family) 23 hours a day. The person whose habits Mark will be emulating is yet to be decided. You can actually apply to be the Other through the project website; applications are being accepted from November 28 onwards.

via The Verge

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