Linh Dao

Assistant Professor, Interaction Design, California Polytechnic State University. 




Linh Dao

Interaction Design, Assistant Professor, California Polytechnic State University


Mixed Reality

An Extended Reality (XR) immersive experience into a digital typography experimentation of the geometry of the lights and shadows. It depicts the journey of undocumented immigrants in a poetic spatiotemporal typographic landscape built on the words of the poem The New Colossus by American Poet Emma Lazarus. The experience is built using the Unity Engine.

Artist Statement:
This project creates a spatiotemporal poem using extended reality technology. It is essentially a port of entry for immigrants in the form of a virtual three-dimensional water garden. The enclosed and shallow sand box features a field of abandoned boats on a lively body of water surrounded by moving typographic sculptures. The boats symbolize the journey, while the sculptures symbolize the destination. It admits the visitor to the intimate moments between the end of a long journey and the beginning of another.

The project illustrates how immigration policies and practices have a long history of profound impact on individual lives. Immigration systems are designed to separate, deport, and imprison immigrants. The experience of being in limbo between arrival and departure is constant for them.

Text has long been a material for artists, such as the Dada, Futurist, Lettrist, and Concrete Poetry movements (Miller). It is inspired by artists in the 1960s who focused on language in their art through labels like Fluxus, Pop and Conceptual art, such as Barbara Kruger and Ed Ruscha (Miller). What sets it apart is its technological implementation. As free as poetry is, its lines, text alignment, indentation, and the distortion of traditional grammars are bound to the printer’s production (Choi). Sculptural typography interrupts those limits with extended reality technology. It is now possible to push to the extreme the essential characteristics of poetry that distinguish it from prose.

This project was created for the Meta Quest 2 and webGL, using Untiy, Visual Studio, Blender, Substance Sampler, Adobe Photoshop,  and Audacity.
Background information:
Tighter government enforcement on border control has driven unprecedented numbers of migrants to embark on dangerous crossings by water (Chivers). Last year, Southern California experienced the busiest maritime smuggling year on record with 1,273 apprehensions of migrants trying to reach the region by sea, almost quintupling those of 2017 (Chivers).

The authorities in Southern California have caught almost 6,700 people since late 2009 entering American territory by water roughly one-fifth of those were apprehended last year (Chivers). America, eager to open its arms to “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free”, enforces border control with roughly 300 vessels and 240 aircraft, including Black Hawk helicopters and Predator drones (Chivers). It bets on the possibility that this boat full of strangers might be full of greatness but more importantly, that it might be full of illegals.

For the past few years, political rhetoric on immigration has dominated the media, creating a feeling of fear and distrust toward disadvantaged populations by referring to them as dangerous criminals. A University of Chicago study found that these biases shape Americans' perceptions of illegal immigrants, and in turn, the policies that enforce those perceptions (Flores). Immigration is a big puzzle that won't be resolved anytime soon, and certainly not with perceptions that ignore their humanity and diversity.