Con+tagion – VR Exhibit

Heterotopias: VR Experience as Contagious Physicality

SZILVIA RUSZEV and NOA KAPLAN, PhD students, Media Arts & Practice, USC

Launch: Friday, October 20, 1:30 – 2pm [Gallery space, Steven Spielberg Building]

The emerging medium of Virtual Reality has been introduced through its specificity of being immersive, triggering a physical along with a cognitive presence by the user. In relation to traditional cinema which is primarily a visual and auditive medium, virtual reality becomes technology of the body expecting a totalitarian mode of perception including all senses.

The key idea of our presentation is to identify virtual reality as an invasive medium, contaminating the senses of the user. This gesture is on the one hand a technologically conditioned re-configuration of the body – head mounted display, gloves, moving chairs and other apparatus is directly connected to the body. On the other hand, in its pervasiveness virtual reality allows a proximity of sensations and sentiments.

This idea is based on our ongoing virtual reality essay “Heterotopias”. It allows users to inhabit remote and enclosed spaces. These spaces, initially defined by a quality of otherness, become increasingly intimate through the inner voice of the narrator. Based on the theoretical text of Michel Foucault, Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias, this VR essay is set to invite theory into space and the body. It is an intimate experience situated in spaces such as the well, the garden, the cemetery, and the mirror. The experience defies conventional cinematic time; instead the viewer occupies various states of sensual and cognitive exploration. Virtual reality is a space of illusion that exposes structures underlying real space. The user enters an intimate experience with otherness and emerges with a shifted perspective on the hegemonic conditions of the real.


NOA KAPLAN is an artist, researcher, and educator living in Los Angeles, CA. She analyzes and reconstructs overlooked, disappearing, and forgotten collections. Through virtual simulations, physical artifacts, and environments, she invites viewers to inhabit these collections, often at unfamiliar orders of magnitude.

Noa has participated in residencies and fellowships at IDEO, Jaunt, Autodesk, Electric Objects, and Eyeo. She has exhibited recent work at ACME., Rosamund Felsen Gallery, and the Hammer Museum. Her work has also been featured in Business Insider, Wired Magazine, and Discovery VR. Noa earned her BA in Sculpture from Yale University and her MFA in Design Media Arts at UCLA where she developed and taught original studio curricula from 2012 to 2016. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Media Arts + Practice in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California.

SZILVIA RUSZEV is film editor, visual artist and scholar. Her own artistic work relates to very personal moments, certain states of emotional solitude in relation to the Other, both in its particular and abstract notion. Her practice based research project on visualizing editing is seeking for non-verbal representations to acquire sensual knowledge about montage.

Her professional work represents a comprehensive approach to independent filmmaking, with more than 30 films in many different formats to her credit. She worked with internationally acclaimed directors such as Peter Greenaway, Anders Østergaard and János Szász and for the short film Wagah she got the Film+ Award for best Film Editing. She studied Hungarian and Bulgarian Literature and Linguistics and Film theory at Eötvös Loránd University (Budapest/Hungary) and completed Diploma at the Film University Babelsberg Konrad Wolf, where she worked as faculty member from 2010 to 2016. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Media Arts + Practice in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California.