Transcendence Research (selected clips), 2006, video, full running time: 43 minutes 47 seconds.

Plato believed that the world that we perceive with our senses is not the real world. Socrates suggested that the body is a prison house for the soul. Both of these philosophers thought that a higher reality exists beyond the physical. To test these ideas, I created this sensory deprivation tank. The goal of the project was to allow one to achieve an immaterial presence by temporarily freeing their mind from its connection with the physical world.

Over 30 people participated in this project, each spending from one to two hours in the device. Participants were interviewed after their sessions, and videotaped as they emerged from the tank. In the project’s final video documentation the participant emergences are played back in slow motion, enhancing the viewer’s ability to empathize with the lethargy of the participant. Participant’s audio interviews are played along with their slowed down emergence. Discussions include such various topics as: the relationship between the mind and the body, the fear of being alone, a potential “layeredness” of reality, the imminence of mortality, the nature of consciousness, and in contrast to the intense quietude of the experience: thoughts about the over-stimulated, multitasking existence that is the norm in contemporary society.

Sensory deprivation tanks work by blocking sensory data from the user’s sense organs. The chamber prevents light and sound from entering, and the sense of touch is minimized by partially filling the tank with a solution which is saturated with Epsom salt—giving users sufficient buoyancy to float on the water’s surface. To decrease the participant’s awareness of the water, it is kept at 93 degrees Fahrenheit, the same temperature as the human body’s exterior.

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