Donald Trump stands before me with a grim look on his face, lightly leaning against the Oval Office's Resolute desk. Moonlight pours in through the office's rear windows as a phone quietly rings. It's 2am, and something has happened -- and a new President holds the weight of the world on his shoulders. I'm looking at this surreal, frozen scene through the lens of an HTC Vive. It's a free virtual reality experience called "Wide Awake," and it tells a simple, concise story: no matter who Donald Trump was before or what you may have thought of him, he's now the guy who answers the phone when shit hits the fan.
Staring at the President's visage through virtual reality is a little like visiting a wax museum. Donald Trump stands unmoving, frozen in time -- but his face looks like it could spring to life at any moment. The VR experience's description boasts that virtual Trump is the "most photo-realistic human you will see in virtual reality today," and he really is. Standing at the President's official height of 6'3, virtual Trump towers over me, his face creased with intensity. His left knee bends slightly off the ground.
As the phone rings, it's hard to tell if he's sitting back in reflection, or preparing to spring off the desk into action. The ambiguity seems intentional. "We see Trump in VR as art," co-creator John MacInnes explains. "A tableau vivant, in the American tradition of artists like Edward Hopper in painting, Gregory Crewdson and Cindy Sherman in photography." Indeed, Wide Awake serves as a living picture -- it's as frozen as a painting, but a light in the player's hand gives them some control over how the scene looks. And while the subject is frozen, the world around him isn't. The ringing phone continues to add tension to the scene. Who is this new president? What is his reaction to a middle of the night emergency?
The work doesn't answer this question -- it merely offers a view of public service the average citizen will never see. Someday soon, Donald Trump will be awoken by a midnight call and rush to the West Wing. He'll be called upon to make life and death decisions most of us can scarcely imagine.
The experience was actually created before the election, but was only released to the public on the Vive store on the dawn of Donald Trump's inauguration. It has more impact this way, portraying a definite future instead of a potential one. It's also an incredibly surreal experience to have just minutes after the President is sworn in.
Source: Macinnes Scott, VivePort