Victoria Mapplebeck “The Waiting Room”


The Waiting Room is a Film and VR Journey which tells the story of my breast cancer (as patient and artist ) from diagnosis through treatment to recovery. 

In 2017, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. A Grade 3 tumour, full of fast dividing cells, which my surgeon once likened to ‘terrorists’. The Waiting Roomwill challenge the language of illness and the cultural myths that surround this disease. We will all encounter illness and death at some point in our lives, and yet we struggle to find the language to deal with it. There are two days in our lives in which we will live less than 24 hours, the day we are born and the day we die. In many parts of the world there is much more focus on the first day rather than the last.

As part of this project, I gained access to my tumour samples. Looking though the microscope at the cancer cells that could one day kill me, wasn’t terrifying, instead I found the experience strangely cathartic.The Waiting Room explores illness and mortality from a patient’s POV, putting under the microscope what we can and what we can’t control when our bodies fail us. 

The Waiting Room VR provides an intimate and visceral portrait of cancer treatment and its transformative impact on the body and family life. The lynchpin of the VR piece, is a 9 min durational 360 take, a reconstruction of  my last session of radiotherapy, which marked the end of nine months of breast cancer treatment. The user finds themselves in an intimate and unexpected role of bystander. This experience is counter balanced by a CGI journey insidemy body. Working with 3D artists, we animated the medical imaging  I collected through out my treatment (CT scans, mammograms and ultrasound)

Within this multi platform project, I embraced the challenge of telling my story in the contrasting mediums of ‘flat film’ and spatial storytelling. In the latter, I 

explored affect, narrative and presence design in VR exploring how users can  experience and witnessmy story as an “embodied visitor” 

The Waiting Roombegins with a personal journey but as cancer affects one in two of us over the course of a lifetime, it also tells a very universal story. Moving beyond sentimentality and survivor/victim binaries, the project disrupts the objectification of the medical gaze and  reminds the audience of the person behind the diagnosis. 

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