Can virtual reality help the refugee crisis? Many journalists think so. And so does design collective Embassy for the Displaced, a network of architects, filmmakers, 3D scanning experts, fashion designers, and programmers working to document and publicize the refugee crisis. Their 3D-scanned video, Where Land Meets Sea, captures scenes of the shores where dinghies come aground and makeshift living quarters for refugees. Now, the Embassy is finishing up creating a VR environment using the 3D scans, and are in talks of exhibiting the work in New York, London, and Athens.
“The Embassy for the Displaced is a faux-institution with no actual legal status, but a very real network of people with different skills, in several locations along the refugee trail. We aim to become a 'land for the landless', both on the physical and the digital terrain,” one of two core members of the collective, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells The Creators Project.
“Initially part of our thesis for an architecture degree in London, it has since become a vessel for us to understand, document and respond to the escalation of violence and displacement that has occurred in the Eastern Mediterranean since the turn of the decade, and the exodus that has followed, one that highlighted the increasingly militarized and inhuman management of Europe's borders,” they continue.
Where Land Meets Sea was 3D-scanned with the help of ScanLAB Projects, a creative studio dedicated to digitally preserving temporary events and spaces. With an interest in “the material traces of refugee flows,” they are also working on a project that repurposes rubber waste from dinghies and life jackets into backpacks for refugees.
“We feel that 3D scanning technologies can not only provide a very useful tool for volunteers on the field, but also present alternative ways of representation for the crisis that unfolds in front of our eyes, and which is being portrayed in a very one-dimensional way, with this horror being normalized, and us viewers becoming accustomed to it,” the Embassy spokesperson says.
The Embassy has also posted to their Vimeo videos of refugees crossing into Lesbos from Turkey, inside views of a boat washed ashore, and the mundane activities of people awaiting relocation, providing firsthand accounts of what life is like for those displaced by conflict.
Last year, an estimated 450,000 refugees passed through Lesbos, most fleeing civil war in Syria. The small island community struggles to adapt to the influx of not only refugees, but journalists, activists, and aid workers.
Where Land Meets Sea was filmed on the Lesbos Solidarity camp, which is currently at risk of being shut down by local government. Vulnerable refugees living there would be relocated to detention centers. There is currently a running petition to help keep the camp open. Watch Where Land Meets Sea below.