Somnium Space is not just a place to socialize, do business, play and work. While all of the above is inherently connected to being a Somnium citizen, this VR world is something entirely different as well. It is also a place for perception. Not ‘just’ a virtual world in a digital sense, but a virtuality, a space that needs to be perceived, interpreted, created by ‘artists’, created intentionally and existing materially (in a sense) and persistently, as a space for contemplation outside the human mind.
I don’t blame you if you lost me there. But think of a painting. It has a material existence, but it also ‘creates’ a virtual space or ‘virtuality’, the domain of perception, interpretation. I’m not the inventor of the word ‘virtuality’ for the record.
Susanne Katherina Langer, American philosopher, writer, and educator and well known for her theories on the influences of art on the mind, described virtuality as “the quality of all things that are created to be perceived”. In her philosophy she explored the continuous process of meaning-making in the human mind through the power of “seeing” one thing in terms of another.
I thought of that one day, when sitting on top of the Lonely Diver Mountain and letting my gaze roll over the waters and grassy plains towards Somnium Waypoint. The power of Somnium Space doesn’t only lie in the technological advancement, the second to none immersive qualities that tricks your brain into believing you are really there. It is much deeper than that. Somnium is a place of contemplation and perception. In Susanne Katherina Langer’s words, it’s a virtuality. And similar to artwork, it exists outside our brains, it allows us to see one thing in terms of another.
When people ask me ‘what is Somnium?’, I sometimes reply with another question: ‘What do you think it is and represents?’ It’s a question that lives in art galleries and museums. We walk around, gaze at an artist’s work, contemplate, imagine, connect symbols, try to give them meaning. Art is ultimately about what it does to you and how it moves you. And herein lies the true power of Somnium. It’s the work of architects. And like architecture, like art, it can move you. It’s not just a place for being. It’s a virtuality as well. Langer particularly considers architecture not as the realization of a space for being, but its conceptual translation into virtuality for perceiving: “The architect, in fine, deals with a created space, a virtual entity.”
I’ll come down the mountain and pour myself a drink now. Bring a toast to Artur and his team. For not only creating a VR wonderland, but also for blessing us with a virtuality. A place that can make us perceive, contemplate, dream.