VR MAKES THE IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLE. HOW DOES YOUR EXPERIENCE PUSH THE BOUNDARIES OF STORYTELLING?
Testimony is an interactive VR documentary where viewers are placed directly inside the unfolding narratives of several sexual assault survivors, giving viewers the freedom to follow narrative threads in a carefully designed virtual space. This work thus offers an immersive experience that is emotionally intense but also user controlled, offering an intimate space to listen and explore the voices that are often not heard in the media.
Testimony’s non-linear narrative design offers viewers the freedom to either browse testimonies randomly or follow predetermined video trails. This technique allows the audience to make their own connections, resisting the fixed conclusions that are often a part of linear documentary filmmaking and turning the viewers into active participants. Testimony is less about story “telling” and more about story discovery.
STORYTELLING BRINGS PEOPLE TOGETHER. HOW DOES YOUR EXPERIENCE ACCOMPLISH THIS?
Though VR is often described as an inward-facing experience, Testimony works against this idea in several ways. First, like many ethically engaged VR projects, it works to instill a sense of empathy for the experience of others. Beyond this, however, it also enfolds assault survivors within a community of peers, reminding them that they are not alone. And finally, Testimony provides a road map for group action, detailing what we as a society still need to overcome in order to ensure survivors can effectively report assault.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF CREATING THIS PROJECT?
This project has posed several conceptual and practical challenges. The first is a design challenge: how best to design an environment that serves as a comfortable and intuitive listening space for viewers to feel engaged with the content of the project without feeling burdened by the emotional intensity of it.
The second is an editorial challenge: how to find the right balance among the various story lines of the assault survivors testifying for the project. This requires making choices regarding content and duration and how to craft these into a three-dimensional story as embedded threads in virtual space.
WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT ALL CREATORS SHOULD KEEP IN MIND TO BECOME BETTER STORYTELLERS?
Interactive or immersive narratives pose extra challenges as they go beyond traditional story lines. Sometimes it is about using the right tools for the story, and sometimes it is about knowing when not to use every tool in the toolbox. It is important to maintain simplicity and offer viewers a space to formulate their own understandings without overwhelming them with effects or information.