Review: ‘We Live in an Ocean of Air’ at the Saatchi Gallery

“The idea is challenging and intricate, virtual reality to rediscover reality” – Giulia Segreto

‘We Live in an Ocean of Air’ is a virtual reality experience by Marshmallow Laser Feat, a London based collective that create immersive experiences, in collaboration with Natan Sinigaglia and Mileage l’Anson.

We Live in an Ocean of Air, Saatchi Gallery

The VR installation is a multi-sensory experience at the Saatchi Gallery, which aims to reconnect humans with nature by inviting us into a magical world where the invisible exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is brought to life.

An immersive experience

The dark room was illuminated by two large screens serving as the background to the users wearing headsets and the HP backpack PC. They walked around waving their arms and moving their hands. I was curious as to what they were seeing and what they were reacting to.

Having been given safety instructions by the on-site team and equipped with the VR headset, breath and heart sensors used to track my breathing, the 20 minute experience began. I was transported into an ancient forest and explored the inside system of the largest organism to exist, the giant Sequoia tree. The cutting-edge technology allowed me to see my breath leave my body as clusters of red dots, which became blue dots as the tree converted it to oxygen.

The tracking system allowed me to see the five other participants in the space as red clusters of dots as they moved around, sharing the same experience as me. My hands pulsed with red oxygenated blood as I reached out and touched the tree.

Suddenly I was being lifted up in the air and saw the forest floor disappear below me and the tree became an abstract form of lines and twists of colour that disappeared and reformed as I touched them. Scent dispersal systems released smells of fir and wood and subtle wind machines added another layer to the incredible experience.

“People don’t realise or don’t accept how interconnected we are with nature. We thought, if people could literally see their breath, how our breath and they breathe ours, then we might realise how important they are.”

Natan Sinigaglia
A sense of freedom

Having spoken to people after the experience it was apparent that everyone interacted with the tree in different ways and took something different away from the experience. Being able to interact with a big space brought a sense of freedom and I became lost within the magical world, forgetting the electronic device on my back.

We Live in an Ocean of Air gave me unique access to explore new senses and emotionally participate both individually and collectively. As I was waiting for my turn I watched others being transported – ‘blind to the outside world, blind to their audience.’ The whole experience was awe-inspiring and encouraged me to reflect upon our responsibility to other organisms, and in particular our dependence on them.

Tickets are £20, concession (ages 10-16) are £15.

© Sophia Marion Patel

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