Bats in the Belfry

VR Project
48 Stunden Neukölln
Polymedialer Ponyhof, Berlin

- 2022

‘Cities are more taxing than they seem. Psychiatric disorders and anxiety are 34% more common in urban areas, and growing up in one at least doubles the chances of developing schizophrenia. Urban living actually changes the biology of the brain.’ Michael Bond, Wayfinding, 2020

During the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, the spaces I occupied in Berlin contracted. My bedroom in Lichtenberg became the control centre for the most pressing concerns of my life: work, exercise, creativity, communication, free time, nutrition and, of course, sleep. It was simultaneously an office, gym, studio, cafe, cinema, bar and bedroom at any given time of the day.

A city contained within a room.

Sometimes I wonder how to reconnect my control centre with the Berlin it once simulated. How do we memorialise the private spaces elevated to the status of ‘city-like’ over the course of the pandemic?

Bats in the Belfry was a VR experience created for the 2022 program of 48 Stunden Neukölln in Berlin. During the opening times, guests visiting the courtyard of Polymedialer Ponyhof were asked to put on VR headsets, leave the sights and sounds of the city, and enter a simulation of my bedroom.

Bats in the Belfry was made in response to the theme of the festival in 2022:

Kafayı yemek

The Turkish Dictionary of Sayings and Idioms defines kafayı yemek as the feeling of becoming distressed due to extreme tiredness. It translates to ‘Ich esse meinen Kopf’ (DE) / ‘I’m going to eat my head off’ (EN). Kafayı yemek can be seen both as a reaction to, and an expression of, confusion in moments of over-stimulation or anxiety. Comparatively, bats in the belfry is an idiom used to describe a person who is wild, erratic or nonsensical. Therefore, when we say that someone has “bats in their belfry”, we refer to a person who acts as though they have bats darting and flitting around inside their head, making them seem absent and unpredictable.

What is highlighted in the idioms kafayı yemek and bats in the belfry is our tendency to conflate the emotional (sensations of panic and disorientation) with the physical (body parts, architecture, the motion of wild animals). Such is our need to situate and make tangible our mental condition in those times we find ourselves feeling ‘out of place’.

Project contributors:
- Raised by Puritans (Music)
- ALPHA_RATS (Game Design)