Daniel Kim – Diary of a Fly
“What would it feel like to be a fly?” Daniel Kim wonders in his MA/MSc Interactive Digital Media project. ‘Diary of a Fly’ is a concept that Kim has developed into a virtual reality film and game in which the story is told from the perspective of the fly, and won Kim the Second Prize awarded by the VR Films & Experience at Samsung & The Chosunilbo Daily Competition.
We could ask, “Why should I care what it feels like to be a fly?” They spread germs, their babies are maggots. What is likeable or interesting about flies? But perhaps this is another example of where the empathy-building potential of VR really comes into its own. The presence of insect bodies in literature, film and art has often been metaphorical, and usually loaded with the purpose of questioning human experience, rather than that of non-human animals. And of course, the most potent and damaging use of distinctly unpopular insects, like cockroaches and flies, is their symbolism in instances of dehumanizing rhetoric. There is much to say about the choice of using such a creature as the central character here.
Kim isn’t so much concerned about the accuracy of sensory perception and the specificities of ocularity, but instead wants the viewer to identify with the fly at the centre of his story, and he does this through the echo of familiar questing tropes and asking us to invest in the fly character’s backstory at a point where the fly‘s physical form isn’t yet revealed. Though worlds apart in so many respects, Diary of a Fly seems to share a lineage of interspecies sympathy with the Oscar-winning Hungarian animated film A légy (The Fly), 1980, written and directed by Ferenc Rófusz. Each fly’s-eye perspective is meticulously drawn in each frame of this animated masterpiece, and with Kim’s imagining of the world according to the common housefly, VR propels this concept into new territories.
Kim’s aim of providing audiences with an exciting, immersive experience could have equally manifested in more showy, superhuman qualities, but there’s something endearingly quotidian about his use of the simple housefly, overlooked and mostly vilified, as protagonist. Kim has mentioned that rather than being a creature which inspires disgust, that Diary of a Fly may invite viewers to rethink how they categorise lives that are valued and those aren’t, pointing out that even a fly is worth cherishing as a living being.