Metaverse Multiples

Keiken’s interactive gaming installation uses tech to explore different states of being

Keiken is a dynamic collective of artists based in London and Berlin. The group has launched its first solo show, Player of Cosmic ؘ ° Realms, at contemporary art gallery Aspex Portsmouth in England. The installation consists of two works: The Life Game, an interactive CGI film series, and Bet(a) Bodies, a wearable technology designed to simulate empathy and a physical experience of pregnancy. 

The fem-led collective takes its name from the Japanese word for ‘experience’, and it explores our hunger to experience not only our own felt reality but that of others, too. Empathy is an important concept for artists with such diverse backgrounds – they bring their Mexican, Japanese, European and Jewish heritage to bear on their work, which traverses moving imagery, gaming, performance art, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). 

The complex merger of high-tech digital realms and the experiences of the physical body results in immersive experiences in the Metaverse. Keiken views the latter as a cosmic realm “because transporting your consciousness into another realm is a spiritual act.” 

Life in this ‘phygital’ world is revolutionary – we can get more deeply in touch with our own bodies, but we can also inhabit multiple bodies and have multiple experiences. This is the thinking behind Keiken’s wearable technology, which allows participants to experience pregnancy via computer simulation. Their desire is for others to see the importance of “entering their own internal worlds, or Metaverses of the mind”, in which avatars and experiences form a holistic collective.

“It’s important to remember with mind and body that you can’t have one without the other,” they assert. “The relationship between the digital and the physical can’t sustain itself in the Metaverse if we ignore the body, or our organic matter. If the physical body can be supported and stimulated while we’re in the Metaverse, rather than just dislocated, we have the potential to emancipate ourselves from the physical limitations of our actual bodies.” 

For Keiken, we are an infinite network of interactions, data, memory and feelings, and using our bodies as a site of metamorphosis will allow us to live as our authentic, multiple selves. 

In contrast to many gaming manufacturers, for whom collective emotion is given little impetus, Keiken subscribes to the Damasio school of thought, in which “feelings have not been given the credit they deserve as motives, monitors and negotiators of cultural human endeavours… It is feelings that motivate us to build, to invent and to create all artifacts and instruments of culture.” How we are feeling collectively, they enthuse, will reveal what kind of Metaverse realms we may, in fact, manage to enter, or envision.

Working together since 2015, Keiken won last year’s Chanel Next Prize, have exhibited in Berlin, Thailand, Yerevan, Barcelona and Liverpool, and will be 2022 residents at Somerset House Studios. 

Player of Cosmic ؘ ° Realms can be experienced free of charge at the Aspex Portsmouth until 27 March 2022. 

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Credits: Keiken