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AQUAPHOBIA uses VR to connect inner psychological landscapes with exterior ecosystems. The work is inspired by psychological studies of the treatment of aquaphobia—fear of water—as an entry point to transform perceptions of our relationship to future water levels and climates. AQUAPHOBIA is a full-scale virtual replica of Louis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier in Redhook, Brooklyn, an area greatly compromised by climate change with hurricanes and rising sea levels. The virtual landscape combines red-clay materials with pre-urban plant species in Brooklyn and futuristic settings. While journeying through this landscape, the viewer experiences a symbiotic setting of mud, water, and subterranean infrastructures intertwined with roots and plants. An alien morphing aquatic entity follows the participant through the landscape, emitting scuba diving sounds and reciting a poem, which tells a breakup story between the landscape and its virtual visitor. AQUAPHOBIA uses VR to mix past and future geological periods and the personal with the landscape.

Jakob Kudsk Steensen is a Danish artist and art director based in New York, specializing in VR and interactive media installations. Steensen is concerned with how imagination, technology, and ecology intertwine by developing futuristic virtual simulations of existing real-world landscapes. His work is at the forefront of real-time rendered virtual environments, and he develops projects through collaborations with science, technology, and natural science divisions. His art has recently been exhibited at Carnegie Museum of Art, The Moving Image Fair, NYC, MAXXI, Museum of Modern Art, and at Sundance and TriBeCa film festivals. Steensen is currently a 2017–2018 member of NEW INC, a technology and culture incubator by The NEW MUSEUM, in NYC.

AQUAPHOBIA (Room-scale VR, 2017) environment demo from Jakob Kudsk Steensen on Vimeo.

Poem narration by Rindon Johnson. Support for the development of AQUAPHOBIA comes from The Danish Arts Council and NYC Office of Cultural Affairs.

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