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Thesis Mentor: John Benton
Media/Format: Interactive VR Game
Technical Advisor: Dario Laverde

Belongings is an immersive memory box that uses the medium of virtual reality to bring an embodied immediacy to one woman’s life story. The viewer interacts with her personal photographs, documents, artwork, and possessions in an intimate space where the present and past coexist in an interactive biography.

A young girl, torn from her home at 12 and sent to an internment camp, fortunately rescued by her uncle and brought to safety. A mother of two who never spoke of her own childhood.  A prolific artist working across mediums who produced ceramic and textile art, works on paper, and paintings, from the quirky and charming to the serious and sophisticated over 25 years of practice. A woman who disappeared slowly into dementia in her sixties. Ellen Rauh was all of these women. She had kept her traumatic childhood in 1930s Germany a secret so well that her own children only learned of it when they found a hidden box of photos and documents after her death. It revealed the barest outline of her 14-month journey to New York from the Baden region of Germany after all the Jews there were expelled over four days in October of 1940. The bombshell discovery left them with more questions than answers, a mystery no one could help them solve now that the woman who had lived it was gone. All they had were their memories of the mother they loved and thought they knew, and the things she left behind. Her belongings became their roadmap to filling in the blanks of her life.

Carol Silverman is a storyteller at the intersection of material culture and technology. Her work centers on the narrative power of objects. She believes that if we take a moment to listen, the worn, used, tactile things around us will tell us much about ourselves. Carol thinks of her day job as a decorator of sets for film and television as an object-based storytelling lab. She has had the opportunity to work with directors as diverse as Steve McQueen and Wes Craven among many others. Carol has decorated projects ranging from parody commercials for Saturday Night Live, to feature film The Hoax, directed by Lasse Halstrõm and starring Richard Gere, to the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, for which her set decoration team was recognized by the Television Academy with four Emmy Awards. Since becoming involved with the New York XR community in 2017, she has come to believe that virtual and augmented reality is the future of storytelling and looks forward to the day when spatial computing enters the mainstream. She will be receiving her MFA in Visual Narrative from School of Visual Arts in New York this summer.

Website: alizarinorange.com Twitter: @alizarinorange Instagram: @alizarinorange

This is mine. This is me.

I have always believed that the things people choose to own reveal them. The private memories people attach to their belongings show who they are. I asked my community for their thoughts about their things. What I received has been a gift. I have a sense that it has been cathartic for my respondents to share their stories with me, like telling a secret, a feeling of joy that there is someone who wants to hear the thing they always think when they see this object. Which is exactly what I had hoped for.
Perri’s Sweater, Sarah’s Needle case, Ben’s Desk, Gail’s Green Marilyn

Christina’s Teacup, Max’s Markers, Brenda’s Rock, Amanda’s Signature Book

Stacy’s Purse, Anelisa’s Figurine, Dario’s Guitar, Miriam’s Sugar Bowl, Susanne’s Wooden Toy

Robert’s Baby Fork, Ivan’s Model Plane and Playing Cards, Pilar’s Clay Bear, David’s Oregano