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George Stone and Suzannah Pettigrew

This virtual simulation explores what spas will be like in the future

TextNellie Eden

Digital artists George Stone and Suzannah Pettigrew discuss their art piece and how technology has brought them closer to a sense of calm

“I want to spend the weekends inside a VR world because reality exhausts me.” So begins “I Feel So Relaxed” a 3D video created by long term collaborators George Stone and Suzannah Pettigrew. George is a video artist and Suz a multidisciplinary one- she’s also a spa enthusiast which is particularly helpful considering their first project for Dazed Beauty – a “virtual spa simulation” perfect for any of us beleaguered and tired from real-world stresses and strains.

At Suz and George’s sustainable infinite 24-hour digital spa, users are invited to relax, breathe and try one of the many sci-fi treatments on offer. How about downloading a “levitating salt sauna” to help boost your “neurotransmitter serotonin- recommended experience time 15 minutes, 200 megabytes”?  Or how about submerging yourself in an “iron-rich therma-pool” to improve circulation?”. All possible in this simulation.

We are consistently told that tech makes us stressed and anxious. Our attention spans have been reduced to fly-span, we’re told, and we’re losing the ability to self-reflect and connect. Instead, we’re on the conveyor belt of content, clumsily and avariciously consuming messaging on our phones day and night, oblivious to the health risks. Here at Dazed Beauty, we were inspired to create a free, digital-only spa in order to design an entirely democratic wellness experience for anyone and everyone. We were able to achieve this through coding, video and web development. Legions of code-first artists are looking at ways in which mobile tech and apps can help us feel more connected to ourselves and the world around us. Apps like Dream On, which allows you to programme your sleep and decide what to dream about, are proof of the creative expression that tech can facilitate. For many, tech can serve as a refuge from the barrage of everyday modern life.

“I Feel So Relaxed” embodies the idea that phones and tech can be valuable tools to help us feel happier, more relaxed and more peaceful, a counterpoint to those that tell us that tech and AR and VR are bad for our mental health. For Suz and George, as for Dazed Beauty, tech can act as an essential tool for alleviating anxiety, realising creative potential and establishing new ways to communicate.

So slip into your virtual robe, unwind, and slowly immerse yourself in the calm cooling waters of their future spa. Read on to find out how the two are embracing, not rejecting, the potential for virtual realities to bring us right back to what makes us human: soul, body and mind.

Tell us about the experience you created for Dazed Beauty.
George Stone and Suzannah Pettigrew: “I Feel So Relaxed” (IFSR) is a testimonial of a user’s experience in a speculative virtual reality spa of the future. A recollection of personal memory and fantasy treatments inform the digital code that creates the 3D visuals illustrating the user's energetic response. The voiceover script describes simulated spa treatments with a soundscape by musician CKTRL that guides the viewer. IFSR is a wellness forecast of how we could embrace and experience relaxation, rejuvenation and restoration in the future.

How does a user choose their package?
George Stone and Suzannah Pettigrew: Throughout the experience, you can edit the duration and what treatments you experience based on your pre-paid data credit.

Can the user change their mind throughout the simulation?
George Stone and Suzannah Pettigrew: You can change your mind as much as you want, as long as you stay relaxed.

How do you program the experience?  
George Stone and Suzannah Pettigrew: Our team update the available experiences regularly based on the most current digital wellness and holistic treatments as well as experience data collected throughout the connection.

What were the main inspirations?
Suzannah Pettigrew: Exploring how we will evolve with tech; physical and financial accessibility of spa and wellness environments; day zero and managing water resources/consumption; past and future spa experiences and the importance of testimonials in beauty and wellness industries.

George Stone: Suz and I often make work together and the visuals are often developed by feeling and observation. I knew that IFSR would be set in an isolated ocean and guided by a protagonist. The set was developed from the visuals I designed for Suz’s performance ‘Safety Glass’ in 2018, it felt like a natural starting place for the mocap performance in IFSR.

How does tech bring you closer to yourself?
George Stone: When I make 3D environments it feels like an introspective process. It probably stemmed out of living in London in a tiny room with no windows.

Suzannah Pettigrew: Tech allows me to gather and process information and create networks for connection as well as developing a language for my art practice.

How do you relax using tech as a tool?
George Stone: I often get really in my head about anything and everything and use tech to distil my thoughts.

Suzannah Pettigrew: I listen to Ram Dass and RuPaul podcasts on my iPhone.

Are there any apps you would recommend, particularly anything that helps alleviate stress or anxiety for you personally?
George Stone: Dayone, Headspace, Cinema4d, Unreal engine.

Suzannah Pettigrew: Candy Crush, Beautystack, Moody and Google Arts and Culture art AR feature.

How do you think VR worlds might come to our aid as stressed out humans?
George Stone: I think artist collaborations with community welfare companies using VR would definitely be a way of developing innovative solutions for creating social change.

Suzannah Pettigrew: It’ll give us insight into what triggers stress by allowing us to experience situations and encounters in VR. Our real life can then be adapted to reflect this insight into our emotional worlds in post-human society. As accessibility grows and the capabilities develop VR could become a network of spaces to relax and for further self-reflection.

What do you predict for the future of wellness?
George Stone and Suzannah Pettigrew: It’ll become more expansive and tech-focused with a deep consideration of sustainable resources as we become more collectively conscious of the impact of climate change.

How do you think AI might come to positively affect people’s personal sense of wellbeing?
George Stone and Suzannah Pettigrew: This is dependant on who is coding the AI and how we are programmed to evolve with it. If AI is coded by groups of intersectional humans then AI will have positive effects on society’s well being as it should cater to and understand a vast spectrum of users.

How would you envisage spas of the future?
George Stone: I went to see a VR piece called “We Live in an Ocean of Air” by Marshmallow Laser Feast. I feel that’s a current example of potentially where the future Spa could exist.

Suzannah Pettigrew: Spas of the future will be more considerate of natural resources and there will be constant updates of treatments as the benefits of spas are explored further and use tech to create hybrid experiences.

What wellness trend do you predict to be big, next?
George Stone: Healthier connections to social media but more so social media’s healthier connection to us.

Suzannah Pettigrew: Levitating salt saunas with exoplanet dust.

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