Experience Kafka’s via Metamorphosis virtual reality

TheGoethe-Institut has re-created the room where Gregor Samsa became an insect

The Goethe-Institut in Prague is opening a virtual reality exhibit called Proměna VR (Metamorphosis VR), based on Franz Kafka’s novella of the same name.

In the virtual reality project, people will be able to experience a Kafkaesque metamorphosis and experience the situation of the novella first-hand. Entry is free, but the installation is presented in the Czech and German languages.

The opening is Jan. 24 at 6 pm. After that, it runs to March 31 and is open Tuesdays to Thursdays from 1 to 7 pm and Fridays from 11 am to 5 pm.

The start of Metamorphosis is well-known to readers of the Prague-based author. “One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin,” Kafka wrote in his 1915 novella.

The Goethe-Institut's head of programming Jakob Ráček said the Proměna VR three-dimensional installation presents this landmark of world literature in virtual reality.

“You, rather than Gregor Samsa, are the protagonist. We have created a miniature version of Gregor’s room from The Metamorphosis and will transport visitors into the room thanks to VR glasses. Visitors can then get a first-hand experience of what it is like to be transformed into an insect,” Ráček said in a press release.

The Goethe-Institut will have a replica of Gregor Samsa’s room. Visitors can enter the room with the help of virtual reality glasses that create a world where everything including their own body feels foreign. “Just like Gregor Samsa, you first have to learn how to direct your new body. You begin by slowly moving around the room, a faithful replica of the literary original, while behind the door your family and boss loudly demand their own entry. Gregor’s bed and table become yours, as do his legs and feelers. Your metamorphosis progresses with the help of acoustic and visual effects,” the description states.

The installation is a collaboration between the Goethe-Institut and the Czech start-up team assembled around art manager and director Mika Johnson, a faculty member at the Prague Film School.

There are some side events focuses on Kafka as well. In his diaries and letters, Kafka often mentioned going to the cinema. Four blocks of films that he mentioned will be shown with English subtitles. These are not films based in his work, but films he saw in the cinema and commented on in his own personal writings. The blocks will be based on the years the films were made, from earliest to latest.

The screenings are all at 6 pm and will be Jan. 30, Feb. 14, March 13 and March 28.

The 1919 American comedy Daddy-Long-Legs and a 1921 film shot in then-Palestine called Return to Zion are among the highlights. A two-minute movie of a tram ride in Prague in 1908 is also included.

Another side event is a virtual tour guided by Reiner Stach, author of a Franz Kafka biography. The second part, Kafka: The Decisive Years, has just been published in Czech.

A virtual Reiner Stach introduces visitors to the work of Franz Kafka by claiming the writer was the spiritual founder of virtual reality. “As an ardent cinema-goer and fan of stereoscopic pictures, [Franz Kafka] imagined already a 100 years ago that one day the two-dimensional image would merge with the depth dimension to create an entirely new and a completely illusory reality,” Stach said.

For more information visit www.goethe.de (Veranstaltungen DE)

Video on YouTube

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