Jillian Mayer’s “Day Off” at David Castillo Gallery, Miami

A video exhibition questioning our virtual place in the real world

Virtual reality might be the next greatest step in storytelling but artist and filmmaker Jillian Mayer already observes something askew—a separation of person and environment that has very comical implications. In her latest gallery exhibition, “Day Off” at Miami’s David Castillo Gallery, Mayer (a member of the Miami-based cultural coalition known as Borscht Corp) presents a series of short films and photography that outline this divergence. Each piece casts a character adorned with a VR headset into an environment that warrants their real-life attention. There’s a startling preoccupation with the tools that create digital life, and while we don’t necessarily expect anyone to be naked and running around snow-lined streets in a headset, the VR tools just as adequately convey the distraction provided by all mobile devices.

“Day Off 1” (the video embedded here) was shot on the streets of Park City, Utah while Mayer was in town for Sundance—where Borscht had many projects visible during the festival. “I knew I wanted to do a video while I was there,” she explains to CH. “I’m from the Tropics. When I start thinking about reality versus alternative realities, mountains and snow are the opposite of my own. It’s a world very different than the one I know. It’s more than a changed backdrop.” With that in mind, Mayer noted an overlap between alternate realities and virtual reality and created a series that questions it.

“The characters in the videos, they are so integrated into whatever virtual reality experience that they are engaging with that it seems like they’ve lost connection with their current physical environment,” she continues. Mayer also calls to attention that it’s reminiscent of tourists. “There’s something about the way we engage as tourists, as welcome visitors to a space we are not native too.” This statement, however, is applicable to both the virtual world and the idea of being at an unfamiliar physical destination. As with all of Mayers work, layer upon layer does unfold with further consideration. But perhaps the best part is that its entertaining.

Day Off” will run at David Castillo Gallery through 31 May. Mayer has another upcoming show at LAXART commencing on 1 June, where she will also be taking over a large outdoor billboard.

Images and video courtesy of Jillian Mayer