Stories of our Forgotten City
Please find the Spanish Version below

Final Project by Jimena Aguilar
Germany 2018 | Genre: VR Experience
HTC VIVE, made with Unity

Vision statement

Stories of our Forgotten City is a Virtual Reality Experience that allows the user to wander through a (de)contstructed version of San Salvador’s historical center while listening to memories about it from people who belong to different generations and social groups that live in and outside of the area. It’s a journey through the collective memory of the historical center.

The historical center San Salvador (El Salvador) evokes haunting memories of inequalities, of a civil war that was never dealt with, of social dynamics full of contradictions. In the 20th century it underwent a process of invisibilization, but as Avery Gordon (1997) explains, hauntings and ghosts notify us of the presence and persistence of that which has been concealed. I explore the historical center’s memory through Gordon’s hauntings and what the Mexican sociologist Alicia Lindón (2007) calls spatial hologram, a place that simultaneously holds other spaces and times within itself. She developed the concept as part of a methodology for the research on the social construction of space, which I used in the research of the content of this VR experience and aim to use within the aesthetic development of it.
The stories that constitute the audio component of the VR Experience were collected through interviews, which were designed based on these guiding concepts, while the visual deconstruction of the center will be created through a layering process of images from these places. A constant in between state, neither in one or another time completely. The invisible borders that divide these places and times are where you traverse.
To perceive the haunted, it is necessary to see beyond what is simply there, to see the past in things that live in the present, be it objects, images, language or people and their stories. To see the spatial hologram is to uncover hidden connections between things and to illuminate them. If one, as Gordon urges us to, is willing to be haunted and follow ghosts, the historical center of San Salvador emerges as a place that reflect a conflictive country’s past, where inequality and violent dynamics can be observed.
This experience combines non-fiction with VR tools and creates an artistic product, which at its core applies journalism and qualitative research with an aesthetic interpretation of its content. Testimonies, archive photography and a visual interpretation of both will be combined to create an immersive space which will be centered around the main holographic scenarios found in the interpretation of the research.
Each user’s path offers an individual experience that aims at them letting go and travel an undefined space in a non-linear form. An intertwining of recollections — from a place often times contradictory, chaotic, and marginalized — invite us to experience a haunting memory and confront contemporary inequalities.