The Enemy, Empathy, Society
War images are some of the most potent and powerful images we see and now they arrive on our phones and computers in an instant, sometimes even as an event is happening. Still, in conflict, as with the US in recent years, some governments censor images. Many find their way to the public, although many arrive too late to stop atrocities as they are happening or creating a time lag that diminishes accountability. When they become past tense, even these potent images aren’t enough to bring peace.
This idea of images not being the sufficient means to bring peace motivated Karim Ben Khelifa who has worked as a photojournalist reporting on conflicts in this world to create an interactive art documentary project. A project that would allow him to dissect the notion of conflict and attempt to answer the why to why we war with one another – how it is that we even allow incredible suffering and violence to happen at all through conflict and war. He brings this question into the public’s debate to tell the story in a new way, through an augmented reality.
“We make sense of the world through stories, and we remember it through experiences. What happens then when someone else’s story becomes your experience?”- Karim Ben Khelifa
He gathered experts in their respective fields and together they created an augmented reality app and a virtual reality installation. Here, Virtual Reality (VR) meets the documentary format creating a new way to tell a story.
Documenting combatants from three conflict zones: with the Maras in Salvador, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in Israel and Palestine, the app is meant to lead viewers through an experience that captures and emulates the story of the teller, face-to-face, with the intention of helping the viewer to have a greater understanding of the person sharing their experience. The viewer hears testimonies from both sides of the same conflict. In addition, immersing yourself in this experience allows you to see a fully expressive avatar that was created by scanning their bodies.
The Enemy – VR, mixed and AR experiences – Trailer w/ subtitles
‘By giving voice to those who carry violence with themselves, by letting them introduce themselves and explain their motives and dreams, this project not only confronts us with the perspectives of combatants, it also, causes us to confront our own.’
His creation of this story telling method brings it into our experience and reminds us that we share this thing we call humanity.
As human beings who are shaped by our own sensory experiences, we don’t always remember that there really is no they, we are they and we are all part of humanity. Our identity is entangled with our beliefs. It’s normal that we identify with the material world and shape our beliefs and views by these very things – that is the human experience after all. Still, it is our judgements, our biases our choosing to like and dislike people, places and things that create disharmony (amongst other things.)
“The Enemy is always invisible. When he becomes visible, he ceases to be the enemy.” – Karim Ben Khelifa
Some of you may or may not know Sadhguru, a sage, who in one of his talks he speaks about our logical mind and it’s tendency to pass judgement as we decide to like or dislike something. Telling us that our dislikes and dislikes are essentially the basis or our bondage. He points to the moment where we become trapped by our likes and dislikes –
“I don’t like this person.” So even if this person is doing something wonderful at this moment, I cannot see it anymore.
“I like this person.” Even if they are doing terrible things, I cannot see it anymore. The moment you get trapped in this like and dislike you have no discretion, you have lost your discretion. Your intelligence is forsaken, your awareness is simply impossible once you get trapped in likes and dislikes.- Sadhguru
I personally like this idea that gives people an opportunity to experience the other in a new way. Finding a path to experience where we can have a deeper understanding of someone elses perspective may or may not create peace, but it might just create more warriors that are working towards peace.
Learn more about the project on their website here and on Facebook too.
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