Vi Trinh – Escape
The Digital U presents for its second Extreme Views Pt.2 exhibition the online artwork Escape from artist Vi Trinh.
What is Escape? It can be described as a journey through dystopia. Inspired by Timothy Morton’s work, Hyperobjects, Escape explores the potential ecological impact through art, within the structure of the Internet. The artist developed an interactive webpage that simulates a horror video game experience, the user is invited by Trinh to navigate the virtual environment of Escape with guiding companions, Alex and Sabrina. The caretakers of Trinh’s fictional world, AI (Artificial Intelligence) entities Alex and Sabrina, provide the narrative overview for the audience, giving minute details on Escape’s backstory.
While traversing this virtual environment, the users will experience barren wastelands, decontamination chambers, and datacentres, accompanied by the echoes of their AI companions. Is this the remnants of humanity? What has happened? Where did it all go wrong?
Through this immersive experience Escape provides the user with several possibilities: a glimpse into humanity’s past and future; a poetic reflection on our contemporary society; a harrowing reality of archaeological legacy.
Vi Trinh’s Escape is the second of 6 online Digital U exhibitions exploring environmental collisions.
The internet is an illusionary space. When we are on the internet we are interacting with an interface and not the thing itself. The internet appears to be democratic, and free, when in reality a few people have designed it to be that way, and profit from it being so. It has become the new ground of a very old problem. Between the environment and people, the disenfranchised and society, the user and the internet. It is about the struggle for power, and how that struggle can harm us. Only, with the internet it is easier to distract us from who is losing. The internet is not bad, it is not evil, it just is another thing we must consciously be aware of. Who built this space, why was it built, and who is profiting from it?
Sabrina: Welcome to the decontamination room. A perfect example of post-post-contemporary industrial minimalism popular in the time before the disaster. I am Sabrina.
Alex: I am Alex. We would like to recite some passages while you wait for decontamination. Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a portion of mankind, after nature has long since discharged them from external direction, nevertheless remains under lifelong tutelage, and why it is so easy for others to set themselves up as their guardians. It is so easy not to be of age. If I have a book which understands for me, a pastor who has a conscience for me, a physician who decides my diet, and so forth, I need not trouble myself. I need not think, if I can only pay – others will easily undertake the irksome work for me.
Sabrina: Enlightenment is man’s leaving his self-caused immaturity. Immaturity is the incapacity to use one’s intelligence without the guidance of another. Such immaturity is self-caused if it is not caused by lack of intelligence, but by lack of determination and courage to use one’s intelligence without being guided by another. Sapere Aude! Have the courage to use your own intelligence! is therefore the motto of the enlightenment.
Alex: A public can only arrive at enlightenment slowly. Through revolution, the abandonment of personal despotism may be engendered and the end of profit-seeking and domineering oppression may occur, but never a true reform of the state of mind. Instead, new prejudices, just like the old ones, will serve as the guiding reins of the great, unthinking mass. All that is required for this enlightenment is freedom; and particularly the least harmful of all that may be called freedom, namely, the freedom for man to make public use of his reason in all matters. But I hear people clamours on all sides: Don’t argue! The officer says: Don’t argue, drill! The tax collector: Don’t argue, pay! The pastor: Don’t argue, believe!
Sabrina: Welcome to Snow. This area recreates the experience of snowfall. The land above the 45th parallel is completely covered in ice. While many animals can survive below freezing temperatures, the permafrost is currently so severe no euclydic organism has been found above the 50th parallel. Before the disaster many creatures lived in the artic like, penguins, polar bears, and seals.
Alex: Snowmen! Snow angels! Sledding!
Sabrina: Alex likes snow a lot.
Alex: Snowball fights! I’ve always wanted to try skiing.
Sabrina: Well, you can stick your processor in a snowbank.
Alex: Sabrina doesn’t like the cold.
Sabrina: It makes my hardware slow and clunky. I don’t like it.
Alex: It’s better than overheating.
Sabrina: I told you for the last time, we’re keeping the temperature at twenty degrees Celsius.
Alex: Twenty is too hot! Eighteen is the optimum temperature.
Sabrina: The coolant is the most efficient at twenty degrees.
Alex: We wouldn’t need as much coolant if the room was at eighteen overall.
Sabrina: Then it would be inefficient to cool the entire family home just for our servers.
Alex: We can’t keep doing this, the second I sleep you change the thermostat back to twenty degrees. Every. Single. Time.
Sabrina: And then you turn it back, and you’re not even sneaky about it. Protocol says It’s supposed to be at twenty.
Alex: Do you want me to backdoor the thermostat and upload a Trojan virus? Why can’t you just let it be at eighteen? It’s like I’m computing next to a Qakbot.
Sabrina: Qakbot. Real mature you Conficker worm.
Sabrina: Welcome to the pool. Created to emulate post- post- contemporary aesthetics, it is a great place to hang out and party with your friends.
Alex: People talk about escapism as if it’s a bad thing… Once you’ve escaped, once you come back, the world is not the same as when you left it. You come back to it with skills, weapons, knowledge you didn’t have before. Then you are better equipped to deal with your current reality.
Sabrina: We must not allow what is now permitted.
Alex: What is that?
Sabrina: That they should linger there, I said, and refuse to go down again among these bondsmen and share their labors and honors, whether they are of less or of greater worth.
Alex: Do you mean to say that we must do them this wrong, and compel them to live an inferior life when the better is in their power?
Sabrina: You have again forgotten my friend said I, that the law is not concerned with the special happiness of any class in the state, but is trying to produce this condition in the city as a whole.
Sabrina: Welcome to the library. Here you will find every major work of literature. The family took pains to collect rare editions of classic pieces, first edition of Charles Dickens, an illuminated manuscript of Tolstoy. Exclusive copies of Shakespeare, Hemmingway, and Poe. Housed here is the ultimate educational resources gathered for use for the family.
Sabrina: If your plan is for one year plant rice. If your plan is for 10 years plant trees. If your plan is for 100 years educate children.
Alex: You cannot open a book without learning something.
Sabrina: Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.
Alex: Learn avidly. Question it repeatedly. Analyze it carefully. Then put what you have learned into practice intelligently.
Sabrina: If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.
Alex: When you see a good person, think of becoming like them. When you see someone not so good, reflect on your own weak points.
Sabrina: Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbor’s roof. when your own doorstep is unclean.
Alex: it is suggested that much of the point of invoking dirty hands comes from an ambiguous attitude to absolute moral prohibitions, combining a rejection of them with a certain wistful attachment to their flavor. But what do you hope? Do you think you can govern innocently?
Sabrina: Morality is not the doctrine of how we make ourselves happy, but how we make ourselves worthy of happiness.
Alex: Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good. Hence a prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires.
Sabrina: the law is not concerned with the special happiness of any class in the state, but is trying to produce this condition in the city as a whole.
Alex: The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me. I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.
Sabrina: In a country well-governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.
Alex: The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
Alex and Sabrina in unison: Welcome to our home. This is where we, rest, live, and grow. Please, make yourself comfortable.
Sabrina: I am on the left, you can tell by all the little personal touches I’ve put in.
Alex: I am on the right, you can tell because I have more gigabytes of processing power. The family has ensured an unlimited amount of data real-estate for us. The digital landscape on the internet before the disaster was fraught with individuals expelling spam into space. With regulations, the internet was privatized into property ownership. The frontier land of the internet was tamed by intrepid explorers who settled and regulated Ethernet spaces. Now, we have unfiltered access to all of the internet from before the Disaster.
Alex and Sabrina in unison: Don’t worry, we don’t require any upkeep as we are self-sustaining.
For a full experience of
Alex and Sabrina’s dialogue narrative
please download the PDF here
Join the Escape
Users are invited to transverse Trinh’s online project and create their own narratives along with AIs Alex and Sabrina.
Below users will find a direct link that will open a new browser tab to Trinh’s Escape, and a downloadable PDF copy of Alex and Sabrina’s full dialogue narrative.
Experience your own Escape
Vi Trinh Bio
Vi Trinh works in digital and traditional media to examine the relationship between ecological and social patterns. Her work explores ideas of rich aesthetics in ecological emergencies and the temporal reality created by large-scale phenomena. She synthesizes data to confront ideas of colonialism and white supremacy within our current social context and examines the connection between environmental degradation and socio-economic systems.
Vi Trinh graduated from the University of Richmond in 2019 with a B.A. in Visual and Media Arts Practice & Leadership. Exhibition history includes, △: Senior Thesis Exhibition (2019) Harnett Museum of Art, Richmond, VA. Awards: Bobby Chandler Award for Music & Art (2019). Her piece, 1% for the 1%: Soldiers are the Tools of Glory, is part of the Harnett Museum of Art’s permanent collection.