Kasra-Burtner: Dwelling in the Enfolding

Dwelling in the Enfolding

Mona Kasra and Matthew Burtner
[ United States ]

Dwelling in the Enfolding is an interactive virtual reality experience that alludes to the complex relationship between humans and nature/environment, problematizing the possessive notion of the earth as ‘our’ home. Earth is not ours or for us, but it simply grants us a dwelling place and the ability to live and sustain our life. Reimagining ourselves from consumers of the planet to its caretakers may perhaps be our biggest challenge as humans. Prompted by the anthropogenic devastation unfolding around us, our work draws upon insights by Heidegger and Ingold on the nature of dwelling to reimagine our entwined relationship to the earth and how we coexist with it.

Our piece utilizes 360-degree spatial sound and video to map a liminal digital environment that bridges across seemingly disparate but interconnected layers of a unique glacial landscape in south-central Alaska. Surrounded by disappearing glaciers that humans have never inhabited, participants navigate vertically across the terrains from the top of a vast ice field and deep into a mysterious glacial ice cave underneath. Within each layer, participants witness a constant state of natural transformation and interact with distinct audio-visual experiences. Water turns to clouds, turns to snow, turns to ice, and turns back to water. Layer upon layer, these complex entanglements flow above, beneath, and through the obscure surfaces of the landscapes concurrently, eroding and shaping the land and the underlying rocks.

Boundless and full of mystery and meaning, these distant terrains challenge our human comprehension of the earth as our home. Glacial landscapes have forever been devoid of human life and human dwelling. Neither our individual nor collective memories, histories, and experiences are ascribed to the frigid tapestry. Yet, despite inhospitality and remoteness, the terrains remain essential to our humanity, directly affecting the habitability of the planet. Bringing attention to the interconnection between nature and humanity, this immersive artwork invites participants to gain traction in and dwell within the interconnecting glacial landscapes. Each experience is in fact an original one as the direction of the viewer’s gaze may shape and initiate unique sound events in the 3D space.

Primary Project Website: https://www.oculus.com/experiences/go/3334227066666320/

  • Medium: VR Immersive Experience
  • Year Produced: Dec 2020

Mona Kasra

University University of Virginia, College of Arts & Sciences

Mona Kasra is an Iranian-American new media artist, interdisciplinary scholar, and Associate Professor of Digital Media Design at the University of Virginia (www.virginia.edu). Her practice-based research questions, critiques, and experiments with the affordances of media technologies within artistic forms and in a variety of improvisational framings. She frequently collaborates with artists, musicians, choreographers, and theater-makers to explore the confluence between performance and new media, particularly the emerging aesthetic possibilities for enriching narrative and enhancing audience immersion in live events. Mona’s artwork has been exhibited widely in galleries and festivals across the US and worldwide, and she has juried, curated, and programmed for many exhibitions, film festivals, and conferences. Her publications can be found in several journals including New Media & Society, The Communication Review, Journal of Dance Education, Media and Communication. At the University of Virginia, she lectures and teaches courses on new media art, projection design, integrated interactive media, and immersive media. She holds an MFA in Video Art and a PhD in Arts & Technology.

Mona Kasra’s Website: www.monakasra.com

Matthew Burtner

University of Virginia, College of Arts & Sciences

Matthew Burtner is Eleanor Shea Professor of Music at the University of Virginia (www.virginia.edu) where he Co-Directs the Coastal Future Conservatory (http://www.coastalconservatory.org) and teaches in the Composition and Computer Technologies (CCT) and Environmental Thought and Practice (ETP) programs. He is also Founder and Director of the Alaska-based environmental music non-profit organization, EcoSono (www.ecosono.org). In the 1990s, Burtner developed musical ecoacoustics to compose sound art from environmental change during a time of dramatic global warming in the north. His climate-change music has been performed in concerts around the world and featured by NASA, PBS NewsHour, the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the BBC, the U.S. State Department under President Obama, and National Geographic. He published three evening-length intermedia climate change works including the IDEA Award-winning telematic opera, Auksalaq. In 2020 he received an Emmy Award for “Composing Music with Snow and Glaciers” a feature on his Glacier Music by Alaska Public Media. In 2021 he published the album Avian Telemetry/Six Ecoacoustic Quintets (Parma Records), and the immersive multimedia environment, Dwelling in the Enfolding (Anchorage Museum) with Mona Kasra, a work available through the Oculus platform. In addition to ecology, his music focuses on embodiment, temporality and noise.

Matthew Burtner’s Website: www.matthewburtner.com


This piece was made possible through a Faculty Research Grant through the Office of the Provost and Vice Provost of the Arts and a Cornell Summer Arts Fellowship through the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Virginia. Our special thanks to James O’Brien (UC Berkeley) for his technical & scripting support.