“You are standing in an empty room. There are no chairs and tables. They were there, but they took them away. There are no monsters from your bad dreams, although, they never were there. You are standing in an empty room, made of little pieces of stardust that carry the emptiness between them. And while breathing in and out, you feel the movement of the emptiness inside you and that the emptiness is you. At this moment you see that the only things which are absent in the room are the impossible ways of existence.”
That’s the spiritual philosophy behind The Void, by the artistic collective Tundra. It's a fully immersive, 360-degree video installation that abstractly simulates the Big Bang. But there’s a catch: The room is fitted with sensors, so if you move too much, talk, or even if your phone rings, the projection goes black. You wait a few moments. And the video starts all over again.
The experience is designed to drive the Buddhist phenomenon of Śūnyatā, a meditative openness or void within one’s self.
“The Big Bang, as a cosmological event, is a good illustration of our main idea,” project manager Bulat Sharipov tells Co.Design. “Emptiness, as an initial state, is where everything can occur. So we were trying to create a little personal big bang to every visitor. “
The room’s sensors, as stubborn as they may seem as they start the video over and over again, work as interventions from our own compulsions. That’s revelatory. In the digital age, technology has been designed to distract us—to lure us in with push notifications to drop whatever we’re doing to check Twitter—because that “engagement” is a monetizable. Our cellphones and social networks aren’t designed to make us happy. They’re designed to make us tap, swipe, and comment just one more time, all the time.
In that light, one can see that The Void is designed with the opposite intent of most of the media we consume today. Sure, it wants our attention just like any other screen in our lives—and it will stubbornly refuse to play without it. But with that attention, The Void wants us to peer within ourselves.