The Grass Smells So Sweet
installation (VR headset, grass, electronic aroma dispenser, monitor, computer mouse)
The headshot kill has a prominent place in representations and imaginations of violent death in Hollywood cinema and video games. Seemingly influenced by this, Q&A forums like Quora and Reddit regularly feature questions about the experience of getting shot in the head with a firearm. The answers written by survivors give a diverse range of visceral, yet colourful accounts of shock, surprise and pain. Many of the answers – the vast majority of which are written by men – suggest a sense of authority and bravery from the side of the narrators, while others (often anonymously) disclose vulnerability and trauma. Characterized by the particular negotiation between public and private performance of online forums, these threads give insights into the ways in which people’s continued occupation with the physical body in relation to violence and (fear of) death is mediated and processed in a digitally networked culture.
The Grass Smells So Sweet processes a collection of found texts from Question & Answer forums Quora and Reddit, which respond to the question “How does it feel to be shot in the head?” The texts, written by people who survived a headshot, can be browsed using the scroll wheel of a mouse next to a monitor. A VR headset installed above a patch of living grass gives access to a simulation based on respondents' attempts to describe their experience, while an electronic aroma dispenser emits a synthetic smell of freshly cut grass. The title of the work is taken from an account of a mock execution in one of the found texts.
Vrhammy Award 2018, jury prize of the VRHAM art and Virtual Reality festival, Hamburg
Photos by Alexia Manzano