AI: “Living without a Body’
AI: “Living without a Body’

Marleine van der Werf
video installation, 2023

The journey of a neuro-psychiatrist, AI and a disembodied patient that explore what it means to live without a body

“If I believe that I don’t exist, or that I am dead, does that not impact who I am? Who am I without a body?’’
Writer Esmé Weijun Wang (suffered from Cotard syndrome)

It’s part of a long-term research project “Disembodied”, based on true stories of people that experienced the rare Cotard syndrome. The neuropsychiatric syndrome can manifest itself when a patient perceives that they do not exist, has lost body parts, or is dead.

In our ever-changing world where uploading our mind, AI and exoskeletons are the new frontiers, these experiences bring us back to what it means to own a human body. Neuroscientists and psychiatrists researching cotard see in the examination of this syndrome the possibility of unlocking the mysteries of where our consciousness is located.

To experience this story we develop various forms, including a documentary film, a multi-sensory installation in a sensory deprivation tank, a video installation, and an immersive sound experience. We test different senses like scent and touch and tools like wearables, VR, bone conduction sound, and GVS to make the experience tangible.

It’s a project situated at the intersection of different disciplines and, based on its investigative nature, searches for innovative ways to represent this experience. The experiences of participants are part of the further development of the work and an ongoing research process.

Marleine van der Werf is a filmmaker/visual artist with a documentary practice based in Rotterdam. In her artistic research, she explores how to immerse in someone else’s experience. Through cinema, virtual reality, and multi-sensory technology she creates haptic experiences to challenge the understanding of the other and the self. Recurrent themes are embodiment, identity, and the perception of reality.

Van der Werf collaborates with renowned experts in the field of science, art, and humanities. Her award-winning projects have been broadcasted on television and shown at international art- and film festivals like IDFA (NL), Human Rights Film Festival Seoul, FILE Festival in Sao Paolo, Future of storytelling New York, and Art Basel. She won the NEXT Talent Award (Playgrounds Digital Art Festival) in 2018, the Scientist Award (Abu Dhabi Imagine Science Film Festival), and the ACT award (STRP) in 2019. In 2022 she was selected for the EMAP residency at Werkleitz, Halle. She completed her Bachelor’s in Audiovisual Design at the St. Joost Art Academy and her Master’s Artistic Research in & through Cinema with distinction at the Dutch Film Academy.