take control


Abel is 22 years old and studies physics and  astronomy. He has had absences until adolescence. He compares his experiences to a mathematical description of a hyperbolic space. And endless, but limited space in which position and orientation are meaningless concepts. Together with artist Joris Weijdom, Abel has reconstructed his experiences in virtual reality.


“It is an endless white space in which you fall. A sort of hyperbolic space, that is limited, but the distance to that limit is nearly endless. A space in which a floating sphere becomes gigantic and folds itself around you. The change of its texture is palpable on your entire body. The object changes from coarse to smooth, from sharp to soft. There is a presence. Someone or something that observes and controls everything. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Suddenly, the object grows enormously large, it becomes Amsterdam. And that is really frightening.”

Mixed reality designer Joris Weijdom has built a virtual 3D space with Abel. This can be found on the If You Are Not There, Where Are You? website. Through a set of Virtual  Reality goggles, a visitor experiences how the sphere folds itself around them. But does the VR experience match what Abel actually felt during an absence? Has enabling others to experience this feeling made it easier to talk about it? And what would happen if Abel could take control of the experience and be in the driver seat? Such questions open up windows to further research, on the website and beyond.

Click the button below to see Abel’s VR space!