“When you go home tonight, could you do me a favour? Could you pause for a minute and consider something. I’m not asking you to think ‘Oh man, I have so much when others have so little.’ I’m not even asking you to be thankful for what you have. Tonight, I’m asking you to consider what it means for you to have your own space for your own emotions.”
You hear these lines of spoken word poetry by Talia Hume as your field of vision floods with multicoloured art. A well-furnished room and a woman, her face resting in her hand, populate your surroundings and from there you’re led on a journey through what it’s like when your home is not yours alone. At the end of “1200 Roommates,” a four-minute virtual reality experience, you remove your VR headset and, hopefully, come away with a better understanding of what it’s like to live in the Drop-In Centre & Rehab Centre.
“A key part of the design is to ensure that it resonates with people so that they can have even more empathy towards someone who may not be as fortunate as them to be able to afford a home or be in a mental state to be able to be part of society,” says Matt Wright, chief experience officer with Mammoth VR, the company that created the virtual reality experience.
The goal of the piece is to get audiences to rethink the way they approach homelessness as well as to foster understanding of the hardships faced by the Drop-In’s clients using the immersive technology. To create the virtual reality experience, Wright enlisted the help of “Bad Portraits” artist Mandy Stobo. She illustrated the 360 degree blank slates using the recently release Oculus Quill, which allows artist to “draw” in the 3D void. When those images were paired with Hume’s spoken word piece, Wright says, the result was amazing. “When it all came together, it really shows how you can converge multiple art forms to make one beautiful art piece,” says Wright. “The first time I showed it to Mandy and the first time I showed it to Talia, they were moved, and I felt like finally, I’m really proud of what we all came together to create.”
If you don’t own a pair of VR goggles, you can still experience the full 3-D depth of 1200 Roommates during one of the Drop-In Centre’s tours, where the film has been incorporated as part of the experience.