More selected projects

The Virtual Reality Of Social Change 

Coping as a woman is a daily battle: the aggression can be subtle, and you always have to push harder to make yourself heard

                                                                                                                             Sandra Paton 


Virtual reality (VR) technology has been developing for quite a long time and is most often associated with gaming. This is one of the key uses for VR “gaming “.Although, during the years technology has become more accessible and has opened the way to the evolution of virtual reality and other forms beyond that gaming.Art is one of them. Creativity is a basic element that helps feelings,images and emotions to be expressed in many ways. Art starts to enter the space of social and emotional change and to offer audiences and the public more widely, opportunities to engage in worlds critically and to experience virtually those empathetic emotions and feelings that perhaps cannot be transmitted in currently traditional visual and performing methods. If we want to grasp just the imaginative leap of empathy,we should consider, Patricia Moore, one of the first perople who created one of the most radical empathy experiments of the twentieth century.She would discover what it was like to be an eighty five years old woman. “I didnt just want to be an actress .I wanted to be an elderly person,i wanted a true immersion character, where i could really walk in someones else shoes” she said. [1, The radical power of Empathy ,xi] So with the help of a professional make-up artist she transformed herself.She put layers of latex on her face so that she would look old,she wore clouded glasses that blurred her vision,she plugged her ears, so that she could not hear well and she tapped splints to her arms and legs so that she would be unable to blend her limbs.This was one of the first empathy experiments.Many years later,VR would do the same. [1, The radical power of Empathy] 



  • gallery-image

The virtual world provides opportunities to engage with, experience and critically consider philosophical, social, emotional, political, economic and other issues.In places where complex planning is needed and prioritisation of scarce resources needs to be considered, entering these complex worlds through virtual means offers VR art a crucial platform. If we consider that VR art can be a powerful tool in developing a critical ethical mindset, we must however, not be oblivious to the negative as well as positive outcomes that could be the result of this form of artistic practice. [1] [2]Some people support that virtual reality can be used as a social manipulation .VR has the unique ability to affect behavioral change.Researchers have convincingly connected VR with the ability to express human empathy and the capacity to impact human bahavior connected with this greater feeling of compassion .Rapidly VR gained a reputation as an empathy machine.Empathy is considered by scientists as a characteristic that we are born with and begins to be eliminated as we start to invest less and less energy in personal relationships .Empathy has also become the first step of a radical change through a virtual reality, having as a basic aim to explore and to get deeper in the problems of our culture and social identity. In this way we can turn our weaknesses into possible solutions and gain a greater understanding of the society's problems.The Εmpathy through virtual reality as we mentioned bove creates artificial parallel worlds that help the viewer to get deeper and to gain critical judgment through the thoughts of a third person. This makes VR a possible choice for stories that seek to explore gender issues and deal with the obstacles of heterogeneity. Understanding this theory, we realise that we can easily use this application to understand one of the simplest but at the same time more complicated and controversial issues , the world of the other. Many programs have so far exploited this opportunity to explore female identity by putting the other in a leading role. We will analyze four critical ways in which VR challenges the experience to explore social stereotypes over which the public is invited to understand some of the most pressing issues that are based on the gender.Having as a reason the continuous verbal harassment that women suffer every day in the road and how difficult is to explain in a person who has not experienced it Parsons MFA student Lucy Bonner having as a reason the continuous verbal harassment that women suffer every day in the road and how difficult is to explain in a person who has not experienced it ,decided to create a project called as “COMPLIMENT” based on women and i the role of the catcaller. In this exercise of role reversal , men get into the experiential process of the acceptance of any form of criticism and yelling within a crowd. With the collaboration of the other gender the aim of the project was to realize and humanize the experience.Bonner replicated an endless parade of men shouting lewd comments, grunting, smacking, or whistling or whispering.
"I designed the point of view to be small so you get a sense of the vulnerability you often feel in those situations," she said. "A lot of men said the height thing really got to them, because that is something you can't really experience as a six foot tall guy." Bonner said. she believes she has officially had an effect, helping the individuals who haven't encountered road harrasment to better empathize with those who have.[7]

Across the Line by the Emblematic Group ( by Nonny de la Peña),is another project which negotiates an important problem in the modern society. Its a substantial issue that is of concern over the past years,namely the right of every woman to her body. The freedom of every person based not only on the position that every woman has in society but also on the free will of everyone, the freedom of our choices and the fact that women will stop to accept any form of emotional violence.Abortion is a very sensitive issue and the same time so important as the free will on our body and the right to life. However, beyond any doubt, any form of verbal violence against someone must in any way be combatted.In this art project a patient entering a health center.As a woman, you should cross the line of protesters who demand you’re a ‘whore’, that you would be a ‘baby killer’ if you get an abortion, and more.It is an artwork with a sensible approach, an open protest against each form of violence.

De la Pena the Godmother of Virtual Reality started working in virtual reality as a Research Fellow at USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism.If viewers can “feel” the power of gunfire overhead in Syria and “stand” shoulder to shoulder with grieving Syrians in the aftermath, they will understand these tragedies from the inside, not as just another headline. Project Syria VR experience, takes the audience to the real events as they transpire.The first scene we have a moment on a busy street corner in the Aleppo district of Syria.A little girl is singing in the road. In the middle of the song, a rocket hits and dust and debris fly everywhere. The second scene is in a refugee camp in which the viewer experiences being in the center of a camp as it grows exponentially in a representation that parallels the real story of how the extraordinary number of refugees from Syria fleeing their homeland have had to take refugee in camps.[13]                                                                       

As i am from Greece this is a familiar scene for me. Thousand refugees arrive everyday from the sea, small children cry and people are hungry.Project Syria put the audience “on the scene”,enabling people to feel as if they are truly witnesses to the violence there.

Another virtual installation, UTURN gives a different kind of approach in communication and gender comprehension. Uturn negotiates the diversity and the different ways of thinking between two sexes, while at the same time it offers the option of an immersive experience in a different role from the one we have born or chosen.UTURN, allows the viewer to experience both sides of the genders. Τwo genders in the same role, allow the viewer to experience both the male and female sex with a simple nerve of the head enough for any form of comprehension that can be achieved in the role of the other.

Documentaries can also constitute a different kind of approach through the use of a virtual reality environment. They can support and help mental health people with ongoing mental health challenges and for all sorts of other physical conditions. Around each subject documentaries provide the viewer with one more complete picture of the problem and one more familiar environment to the viewer. In Contrast VR’s documentary I Am Rohingya ,based on the Rohingya refugee crisis. The story analyzes the life of a woman called “ Jamalida “.Jamalida speaks about her life in a modern society of a different world with different norms. She explain her role as a woman, mother, wife and victim of rape and violence.The documentary gives her the opportunity to talk about her life and gives her space to speak about what she experienced and hoping that her voice will help other women. 

When an artist create virtual reality stories about women, it is not just about showing empowered women on screen for a female audience, it is also about showing vulnerability, so it can be a piece not just for a female audience, but for everyone.Finding ways to amplify women’s voices, stories and narratives is no mean feat, but virtual reality is starting to look like a positive space in which to execute those stories. I do not think it has more opportunity to expose people to women’s stories than any other medium, but because, as an industry, it is newer we have a responsibility to help make it the most diverse form of entertainment it can be – and one that can be reflective of society.” 

The visual arts are constantly developing and evolving. There is no way to know what art will look like in a hundred years time, when the artists working today will no longer be living. The evolution of the visual arts, in all its guises is ultimately unpredictable. VR is a medium that artists are using to tell their stories today and to create spaces and worlds that the audiences can engage with in previously unconsidered ways. The artistic practice, whether intellectual or practical, that sits behind the development of VR art is no different from the artists practice when painting or sculpting or when using a camera. VR is a new (ish) medium. Just as photography or film offered new ways for artists to explore their imagination and tell their stories, so VR art is doing the same. Of course, VR art offers unprecedented ways for audiences to engage with the artistic product, but you could argue that artists have been creating physically immersive environments for decades now, using all the means currently available.

My own view is that VR art can add to the panoply of artistic practice that artists are currently engaged with and that audiences enjoy. In some ways the question does not make sense, because one could consider that VR art is a part of the what we consider to be the visual arts, VR being the medium like paint or bronze or HD video and so on. I think artists will still want to use all the current artistic media available to them to tell their stories, VR is another medium available to be used. Indeed, who knows the future holds for new forms of artistic practice and media to emerge. I am not however underplaying the significant newness of VR art in the art world, or the new and possibly revolutionary artistic experiences it can offer. The art medium in this case, VR can certainly have a strong presence and become a critical voice, rather than leading to any destruction of the visual arts. 

[1] Roman Krznaric (2014)EMPATHY A Handbook for Revolution [online] Available at: ,pp.72-90, pp.ix

[2] Frank Biocca & Mark R. Levy (1995)Communication in the Age of Virtual Reality ,The Social Reality of Virtual Realitypp. 315-340

[3] Can you teach people to have empathy?(2015), Available at: [4] What VR Means for Galleries (2017), Available at:

[4] What VR Means for Galleries (2017), Available at:

[5] Will Virtual Reality Art Destroy Visual Art? (2016), Available at:

[6]Three really real questions about the future of virtual reality (2016), Available at:

[7] 'It's Not a Compliment': VR Lets You Feel What It's Like to Be Street-Harassed (2015), Available at: like-to-be-street-harassed, Available at: nd_Why+Women+Don%27t+Like+Social+VR_Oct+16+2017.pdf



[10] Women in the Arts: Sandra Patron (2018), Available at: TED (2015) ,How Virtual reality can create the ultimate empathy machine , Available at:

[11] Chris  Milk at  TED (2015) How Virtual reality can create the ultimate empathy machine , Available at:

[12] Nonny de la Peña AT TED(2015), The future of news? Virtual Reality

[13] Nonny de la Peña(2014) PROJECT SYRIA, [14]Helen Papagiannis(Author) (2017)Augmented Human: How Technology Is Shaping the New Reality