DARIA TSOUPIKOVA
VIRTUAL REALITY ART / RESEARCH

Hearts and Minds:
The Interrogations Project

Virtual reality performance based on veterans' testimonies of US military interrogation practices during the Iraq War.

Hearts and Minds: The Interrogations Project is a virtual reality performance about human rights developed for the CAVE2 virtual reality environment and adapted to other immersive 3D platforms and 2D screening. This artwork draws participants into the haunting memories of ordinary American soldiers who became torturers in the course of serving their country and still find themselves struggling to reconcile the activities they were asked to do. It is based on veterans’ testimonies detailing US military interrogations in Iraq during the American counter-insurgency campaign in the early 2000s. The project uses virtual reality technology to immerse participants in the minds of people who experienced torture and interrogation during the war to understand its ongoing social and psychological consequences. The powerful narrative of this artwork focuses on the impact of war and trauma on veterans, and utilizes the power of virtual reality as a medium to evoke empathy, understanding and awareness.

This work was developed at the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago through a cross-disciplinary international collaboration between writer Dr. Scott Rettberg (University of Bergen, Norway), filmmaker Dr. Roderick Coover (Temple University, PA), computer scientist Arthur Nishimoto (EVL), political scientists Dr. John Tsukayama (Brigham Young University, Hawaii) and Dr. Jeffrey Murer (St. Andrews University, UK).

Initial performance script by Scott Rettberg

Full video documentation and interviews

The project won the 2016 Best Creative Work Award from the international Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) and Official Selection, 2016 BIFF-Expanded, Bergen International Film Festival in Norway.
It was one of four works selected for the juried ISEA 2016 exhibition of VR artworks in the Gallery 360 virtual reality in Hong Kong.
In 2015 it was included in the permanent collection of the Electronic Literature Organization Knowledge Database.

Video documentation excerpt from Hearts and Minds performance in the CAVE2 virtual environment at the Electronic Visualization Lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Viewers at a performance of Hearts and Minds.
Video documentation excerpt. Performer interaction in the CAVE2 virtual environment.
ELOaward
During the 2016 Electronic Literature Organization conference in Victoria, British Columbia, Hearts and Minds: The Interrogations Project was awarded the 2016 Award for a Work of Electronic Literature, the top prize for a creative work in the field. The jury commented: "A major achievement. The authors harness the power of digital technologies to tell a powerful story and in doing so go far in changing the audience’s hearts and minds about torture.”

ISEAaward
At ISEA 2016 Hong Kong Cultural Revolution, the annual conference and exhibition of the International Society for Electronic Arts, Hearts and Minds: The Interrogations Project was one of four works selected for the juried exhibition of VR artworks in the Gallery 360 virtual reality theatre at City University of Hong Kong.

BIFFaward
Official Selection, 2016 BIFF-Expanded, exhibition of works of expanded cinema, Bergen International Film Festival. Bergen, Norway.