The very point of meditation is to alter the mind to take a step back from reality while being deeply aware of it.
Mero uses AR to critique the modern “wellbeing injunction” through meditation, which is manifested in the numerous experiences, apps and devices which designed to allegedly help the user to reach mindfulness.
In the experience, the user wears a one-of-a-kind AR helmet, through which they can see around them. They are also equipped with a breath monitoring device, and a belt that can tighten or loosen itself, acting as a haptic feedback. The goal of the experience is to focus on breathing. The user is invited to follow a rhythm imposed in the AR view. The more the user fails, the more the haptic belt tightens, and the blurier the vision of its surrounding. The user is forced to relax, otherwise they get crushed by the belt. But by knowing that they can be crushed by the belt, they panic, resulting in a vicious circle. By design, the experience can only increase in intensity, resulting in panic from the user.
The design of the helmet reflects the intentions of the experience with its medical-looking and anxiety-provoking appearance. A key inspiration were the pseudo-medical experiments of Hugo Gernsback. For example, the “Isolator” was an attempt to create a helmet that would restrict senses and distraction and allow its user to fully focus on a specific task, despite being extremely uncomfortable.
The work draws its inspiration from early XXth century Miracle Medicine shows. Rogue medics used to travel the country to sell “miracle” elixirs in fairs, supposed to cure all diseases, but which often did much more harm than good. Being showcased in fairs, it’s easy to imagine that these products pulled the same type of users as those who download wellbeing apps looking for miracle products. In addition, the fact that the setup of the device requires an expert brings back the doctor-patient relationship, and the users submission to the doctors orders.
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