Holograms from Syria is a mixed reality experience that communicates the real-life experience of the Syrian Civil War to Western audiences.
Asad J. Malik was born in a hospital just five minutes away from the compound where Osama Bin Laden was killed by US special forces in 2011. Malik grew up in Pakistan, a country in which the citizens were directly affected by the violence and conflict that dominated media coverage worldwide during the post-9/11 War on Terror. But it’s a very different thing to experience something firsthand than it is to witness it from afar.
“The images of violence that frequented our television screens were from the same cities and towns we populated,” said Malik.
Although Malik moved to the United States and began producing and designing mixed reality (MR) art under the pseudonym 1RIC, haunting images of war have followed.
“Cat videos, Trump memes, mutilated dead bodies in Syria, beautifully designed mattress ads one after the other on a newsfeed that scrolls,” said Malik. “The country is at war but something’s fundamentally different; there is no war. At least not here. No drones in the sky, no fear of public spaces, no reason to hide.”
The artist, who previously designed a popular Harry Potter HoloLens experience, was inspired to create a meaningful project to change the mindsets of people living in safe places in which war is only “a series of images on a 4-inch screen.”
Enter: Holograms from Syria. Using the Microsoft HoloLens, the project integrates holographic images from the war in Syria into the viewer’s surroundings. Many of the images featured in the project are the same images that have been shown in the media, including the heartbreaking photograph of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi’s dead body washed up upon a Turkish beach that prompted an outpouring of grief around the world.
But unlike traditional photos, the holographic images are life-size cut-outs that interact with the viewer’s surroundings.
The project was originally shown as an installation at Bennington College in Vermont. Six holographic images were placed in the frequently populated foyer of the Visual and Performing Arts Centre at the college. Among the images was the young boy’s body, lying on the foyer couch, and dozens of Aleppo Elite Forces soldiers running up the staircase.
The experience, created to remind viewers that, “that in our state of perpetual warfare, the couch that they sit on is socially, politically, and economically connected to someone else’s dead body,” found success among the students at Bennington. After the HoloLens experience, the students said that even long after they had removed the HoloLens, they couldn’t view the couch or the staircase in the same way they had before.
Holograms from Syria is just the first thought provoking war-simulation MR experience from 1RIC. For more information about the making of the project and the artist’s mission, check out his website here.