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 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

Support by the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL), Temple University, University of Bergen, Norwegian Research Council, and Arts Council Norway.
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 Chicago.
Viewers at a performance of Hearts and Minds.
Video documentation excerpt. Performer interaction in the CAVE2 virtual environment.