At PICA we recognise that we are situated within the unceded lands of the Whadjuk people of the Noongar Nation. We pay our respects and offer our gratitude to Elders past and present, and to those emerging leaders in the community. We acknowledge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the importance of their care and continued connection to culture, community and Country.

Always was, always will be.

Our foyer is open today 10am–5pm. Our exhibitions are always free.

Elham Eshraghian-Haakansson

Virtual Architecture of Empathy

Virtual Architecture of Empathy

In her powerful virtual reality (VR) work, Virtual Architecture of Empathy, Iranian-Australian artist Elham Eshraghian-Haakansson explores how immersive mediums such as VR can foster empathy in the viewer. The work follows her family’s experiences of forced migration, inviting audiences to form an emotional connection while evoking empathy for and a deeper understanding of migration, displacement and homelessness.

Weaving live theatre with film and poetry, the virtual world created by Eshraghian-Haakansson makes visible the cultural stories that transcend personal experience – becoming universal tales of the human condition. Using VR, the artist immerses the viewer in their story, shifting the viewer’s perspective from one of passive spectatorship to that of witness and participant. By facilitating an emotional, active experience, Eshraghian-Haakansson asks the viewer to consider their ideas of what constitutes a home.  

Event Notes and Content Warnings

The following artwork contains depictions of trauma which may be upsetting to some audiences. 
Parental guidance is advised.

About the Artists

Elham EshraghianHaakansson is an award-winning Iranian-Australian researcher, director, and video artist. Her arena of work centers itself within communal and collaborative social practice. Her research navigates inherited stories and post-memory felt by displaced community through the poetics of the moving image. She invites viewers to become the ‘witness’ rather than the ‘passive bystander’, examining empathy in film-poems, and immersive multi-media experiences facilitating a critical discussion surrounding empathy, custodianship, compassion, and social change. She has collaborated with multiple art organizations, such as Spaced, Next Wave, Victoria Park Community Centre, Forrest Research Foundation, PICA, Community Arts Network, Immerse Australia, Co3 Dance Contemporary and Encounter theatre. Her work has exhibited nationally and internationally, receiving numerous prestigious art awards for her video installations such as the 2018 Dr. Harold Schenberg Art Prize, 2020 Invitation Art Prize, 2020 14th Arte Laguna Special Prize Award and the 2022 Ellen José Art Prize. Her artistic values prioritize agency, empathy and legacy advocating for community arts programs, as co-founder of the Second Generation Collective, which seeks to bridge intergenerational gaps, navigating trauma and communal care.


This creative work was made possible through the Forrest Research Foundation Creative and Performance Fellowship, Forrest Research Foundation and the School of Design, University of Western Australia.  

In collaboration with creative arts therapist Cara Phillips, Dr Ionat Zurr (School of Design, University of Western Australia), Immerse Australia Natalie Marinho (Chair of Immerse Australia), Mahmudul Raz (founder of Raz Media) and research associate Dr Ali Fardinpour (founder of Wise Realities), and Victoria Park Community Centre. 

 This exhibition is presented as a partner event for WA Games Week.


Image: Elham, Eshraghian Haakansson, a Golden Dream, the steed of this Valley is pain, 2023, image: courtesy the artist