The Act of Receiving, Act III


The Act of Receiving, Act III is a data visualization in VR.

It is a part of the performance series The Act of Receiving.
Click here to read about the series.

This is a VR installation where viewers are physically sitting on a platform in a dark room. Once the room lights are turned off, the sitting platform lights up. At the same moment, they enter the virtual environment and find themselves sitting on a floating, empty chat window. As they sit still in the infinite darkness, they experience the entire WeChat conversation history between me and my mother for the past six years floating towards them, passing through them, and leaving them. The sound of the voice messages fade in and out as they float by.

The Act of Receiving is a series examining what it’s like to be a receiver of information.

I have been using the social media app WeChat as the main communication tool with my mother for the past six years. Living overseas for almost a decade, my definition of “home” has been taken over by those voice message bars, my mom’s profile picture, and our chat window. During the making of the series, my grandmother passed away. On that very day, for the first time ever, WeChat somehow failed to send me any push notifications the entire day. When I finally got a phone call at night and checked the app, I was bombarded with a full feed of missed messages from my mother throughout the day. 6:34AM: “Grandma is not doing well.” 10:56AM: “?” 1:02PM: “Grandma’s passed away.”

I felt, as if information is passing through its own timeline, and “me receiving it” is merely an unimportant part of the journey.  This time, I felt almost abandoned by information.

I wonder, how could I describe this feeling that my information and I are not in sync? In other words, how could I address this experience that some sort of “glitch” happened in the process of me receiving, so I missed the information that originally belonged to me?

Technology used:

Unity Engine

This is the Act I of performance series The Act of Receiving.

In order to create this piece, I collected all 8,450 text messages and 1,394 voice messages. I wrote python programs to organize the messages, including matching the voice messages with the dates. I chose to present the experience in VR because the environment offers a unique sense of isolation I desired. Floating on an empty chat window and having the messages float by, the user experiences the parallel between receiving information as a constantly scrolling feed as it passes through time, and receiving it as a static moment.