A virtual reality experience that turns self-evident truths upside down
How does it feel to be a slime mold? Or a toad? Or a plant? The virtual reality experience Symbiosis from the Dutch collective Polymorf is a unique experience for all the senses. Wearing a specially designed suit full of sensors, you temporarily escape the limitations of the human body and the world as humans know it. Symbiosis is a performative, multi-user, and multi-sensory VR installation in which the human body will be redesigned. It allows every participant to embody a post-human or even nonhuman reality: a completely symbiotic human-animal or human-technologic relationship. As a designer collective that likes to mix different styles and approaches, Polymorf is inspired by the work of biologist and philosopher Donna Haraway. In the current age in which the climate and atmosphere are changing as a result of human activity, she is thinking about a future in which humans have a less central place. Her ideas turn self-evident truths upside down.
Symbiosis hints at a future life in true symbiosis with other organisms and technologies on this planet. To complete the multi-sensory experience, the virtual world participants are presented with is supplemented with smells, soft robotics, and plant-based snacks tailored to each creature.
Designed and produced by Polymorf in collaboration with Studio Biarritz
Directed by: Marcel van Brakel and Mark Meeuwenoord
Interaction design: Luciano Pinna, Frank Bosma and Wijnand van Tol
3D Lead designer: Roberto Digiglio
Wearables: Maurice Spapens
Food design: Karpendonkse Hoeve
Producer: Corine Meijers
Sales, partnerships, production: Marieke Nooren
Creative technologists: Martijn Zandvliet, Edwin Kuipers, Scott van Haastrecht and Thijs Eerens
Voice artists: Louise Porter Voice, Molly O’Blivion, Holly Habstritt Gaal, Anahita Mekanik,
Janet Peters, Maya Hawke, Querida Lu Ahn Funck and Brian Dives
Digital strategy: Nienke Huitenga
Commissioned by: STRP and Breda Photo
Partners: IDFA Doclab & MIT Media Lab
Financially supported by: Netherlands Film Fund and Creative Industries Fund NL, Amsterdam Fund for the Arts (AFK)
Selected by: the Sundance Institute New Frontier Story Lab 2020 and the Venice Gap-Financing Market 2021
Special thanks to: Ingrid van Eeghem, Jaap Krabbendam, Wander Eikelboom, Klasien van de Zandschulp, Theo Andriessen, Ton van Gool, Gieske Bienert and Synchron, MU Hybrid Art House, EYE and (Im)possible Bodies; Donna Haraway and Duke University Press for allowing the use of ideas from “The Camille Stories: Children of Compost,” in Staying with the Trouble, by Donna Haraway. Copyright, 2016, Duke University Press
Polymorf (NL) is an interdisciplinary experience design collective. Polymorf designs by any media necessary to create speculative design and multisensory experiences using cutting-edge technologies. Polymorf explores the possibilities for taste, scent, and touch to create multi-sensory strategies for story and experience design working closely with various industries and universities all over the world. By directly influencing the affective response, Polymorf incorporates visceral meaning in their designs to reflect on the now, the (post-) human condition, and the relationships between humans and technology. Their work has been shown and awarded internationally.