By Shakia Stewart, Digital Content Manager

24 November 2016 - 16:14

A participant wearing a virtual reality headset
"I’m really excited by new audiences. Its really exciting for me to be somewhere random, in a café, in the middle of Jakarta, where most of the people who’ve seen it haven’t been expecting to see it" - Jane Guantlett

Last weekend Jakarta hosted the Digital Design Weekend as part of UK/ID Festival 2016, an Indonesian remix of the event which takes place annually at the V&A in London. Amongst cardboard workshops, displays of ghost detectors and 8-bit synth demonstrations, artist and storyteller Jane Gauntlett showcased her latest interactive experience In My Shoes: Dancing With Myself.

Part of an ever-expanding library of interactive experiences based on real life stories, In My Shoes: Dancing With Myself invites participants to get inside Jane’s head as she meets a friend for lunch at a restaurant. Through this powerful and emotive use of virtual reality technology you get the chance to experience what it is like to live with epilepsy. 

We spoke to Jane Gauntlett about the project, and what it was like showcasing in Indonesia for the first time. 

At first I thought it was very peculiar because I didn’t know what to expect. And then little by little I started understanding what it was about. At the end I felt as if I never knew how people had epilepsy felt in their daily lives and I thought it was very interesting to know and actually be in their shoes and feel what they live every day." - Participant in Jakarta

In My Shoes started as a project after I had a brain injury and I lost the ability to walk and talk. When I got better I started to work as a mentor at the hospital, and I started to work with families. One of the big things I found was that they weren’t able to communicate very well. Quite often they were having arguments but they were both saying exactly the same thing. The first piece I made was with a mother and daughter, and they were both telling me the same thing about the same experience but they both couldn’t agree on it. So I worked with the mother to recreate that experience using audio technology and the daughter…and then I sat them next to each other and asked them to hold hands, whilst they heard each other’s story. The project developed from there. It has helped me to learn about writing intensive stories, and how to work with people on very intimate, very delicate issues.

I use whatever technology suits it best – whether it’s audio, video goggles, virtual reality technology, or anything else...I’m always playing with new technology. My interest is in the impact of the story. I don’t get very excited about the technology unless I think that it’s going to intensify the experience.

I’m quite excited by VR technology because it becoming more and more accessible. It’s going to be possible for me to scale it up. And it’s great being in Indonesia because its really great seeing the impact that it has on people who don’t necessarily understand the language, seeing how much they respond to the actors in the film.

We try to recreate the set around you so you can feel what you can see, and you smell what you would expect to smell in a restaurant. I think about everything, all of the senses, and try not to get too excited about the technology. That’s what I always try and avoid.”

A view from inside the virtual reality video by Jane Guantlett showing her sitting at a table at a restaurant.
A view from inside the virtual reality headset.
Smell being placed below a participants nose during the virtual reality session.
Smells are intensified during the virtual reality experience...
A participant wearing a virtual reality headset
...and the restaurant set is recreated around you.

In Indonesia I don’t know many people who have epilepsy…you become more understanding and sympathise with people with epilepsy. This is very good." - Participant in Jakarta

“The Indonesian audience have been very empathetic. I think the thing that’s different is that in the UK people tell me all their stories as well. And that’s part of the reason that I do it, because I think that the currency of storytelling, if you share something really personal people will share something really personal with you. I’m really interested in exploring how I can bring in that sort of intimacy that you get from sharing personal experience.

I’m quite keen in my work and in my talks to make people feel relaxed about talking about disability, to not feel afraid of using the right terms, and to open up about their own experiences. Because I think that can really help. I think there’s a lot of shame attached to disability and a lot of people won’t tell people that they have epilepsy, or depression, or any other sort of disability…so I think it’s quite informative, and I think it opens dialogue about disability in general, not just about epilepsy.”

Other stories from the Digital Design Weekend