Art In America

Jeremy Couillard

at Louis B. James,
143b Orchard Street

The most uncanny part of wearing a virtual reality headset is looking down and not seeing a body: the gear reduces the wearer into a gutted gaze. Jeremy Couillard doesn't take that physical disconnect for granted; he used it as the launching pad for The Out of Body Experience (2015)—and perhaps that's what makes this the most compelling piece of VR art on view in New York right now. Don the headset and you find your avatar sitting in a model of the same gallery basement where you're seated, before your soul drifts upstairs through a psychedelic door to a fantastical undulating landscape populated by docile monsters and fabulous sculptures. You can't control the direction of movement, as you can in most VR experiences, but it seems wise of Couillard to think of it as a trip rather than an environment—transporting, rather than immersing, his audience. Viewings are by appointment, but walk-ins are welcome, and if there's a wait the upstairs gallery is a pleasant place to idle. Temporarily fitted with the gypsum ceiling tiles and hideous brown carpet of a clinic, it has trashy magazines to leaf through, coffee to sip, Couillard's art on the walls and his custom channel on TV. Who needs a headset to feel immersed when the gallery already does it?

 

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