ārǣfan collective

Back from a successful mission – The Unreal made real @ Seed!

The outside front of TheUnreal with #vr artist @LachlanSleight & visitors at #burningseed2018 #burningseed #burningman #virtualreality #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

It’s been a couple of weeks now, the dust has settled, and we’ve finally washed the paddock off the camping gear and stored it away for next year.

We made it to Burning Seed – constructed The Unreal and shared our external visuals and the out of body VR experience (as well as some of Lachlan’s other projects on Burn night) with many excited participants – some of whom queued for up to an hour and a half for their turn!

As with many projects, our ideas changed through the course of the build, and what became reality was different in many ways from our early plans. We created incredible external art with more than 3000 LEDs housed in 16 plywood panels, internal  design and our flight suit uniforms adorned with EL wire, the cloud bed with recycled PET fluff which was very well contained and surprisingly non-moopy, and of course the out-of-body VR experience created by Lachlan which involved many, many hours of coding, especially working with new and experimental hardware – both the depth camera features and the heart rate monitor custom hardware and software had their quirks and have been an amazing learning experience which it was just amazing to bring to the paddock.

Thankyou so much to everyone who came through, Artery for the support and fundung, and Burning Seed in general for the wonderful event that allows this crazy stuff to happen. And of course, all our core team members on site (Lachlan, Wintermute, Kudra and Kerning) who all worked tirelessly, as well as support assistants for a couple of nights helping participants through! Sadly Stephanie Andrews was unable to be more involved in the later stages of the project, but her early involvement and creative direction shaped the experience and she was very much missed on the paddock.

We got some fantastic feedback, some great photos and video, and many wonderful conversations were had outside as people moved from cube to cube in the colourful queue. Probably the highest praise was from a fellow  who told us he’d been participating in Burns since 2002, and The Unreal was hands down the single best experience he’d ever had at a Burn. Wow. We told him to please go tell Artery immediately so they felt happy about having given us money 🙂 We are apparently at least one eight year old’s number one pick from Seed this year, which made us all go “awwwwwww”.

Of course pictures tell a thousand words, so we’ve created a gallery which is now linked from the main menu options, as well as here – have a look! Some key pics are linked below, and if you have any you’d like to share with us, please send to info@araefan.org and we’ll put them in the gallery! You can also see our outline report on what was delivered, as well as the VR specs.

Thanks so much for sharing this journey, and if you have come across this site curious about our project and have questions – or maybe would like us to bring The Unreal to an event you’re involved with or create something new in VR or the realm of LED art – we’d love to hear from you!


One of our younger visitors to TheUnreal @ #BurningSeed2018 #VR #art #virtualreality #BurningSeed #BurningMan #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Custom electronics building commences…

Custom electronics building commences…

We’ve been busy in the background progressing through the earlier stages of the planning and prototype development before we commence on the large scale physical build-out in the next couple of weeks. Our superstar build lead and custom electronics whiz Toby “Wintermute” Corkindale has been especially hard at work with some of the custom electronics aspects of the project. Creating something like the out-of-body VR experience means we’re working areas there really aren’t any off-the-shelf solutions, and that requires patience and a steady hand with extremely small and fiddly screws!

custom electronicsDigging with the dremel…

custom electronicsSuch tiny tiny components!

custom electronicsThe finished monitor: while the external might look familiar to some, what inside is entirely customised electronics!

Concurrently, the prototying for our structure decoration has been underway, with unique and distinctive plan for creating external structure visuals coming together…

custom electronics inside the panel…

test patternOur “test pattern” trial run! The actually lighting won’t look like this but it demonstrates the custom electronics LED panel function really well!

animated cubesMock up of partial design for one face of the exterior. Our design plan is morphing as our ideas grow with the structure plans.

Revealing: The Unreal!

Revealing: The Unreal!

It’s amazing how much concerted effort can be required to get a diverse group of creative professionals to be able to sync up their calendars to all physically meet in one place at the same time!


Introducing: the ārǣfan collective, consisting of Stephanie Andrews, Lachlan Sleight, Cassandra Edwards, Toby Wintrmute Corkindale and Stefan Szo; with the advisory assistance of Toby Bell & Karen Melzack.

The first meeting of araefan. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

We are overjoyed to announce that our  Burning Seed Large Art Grant submission made several months ago (amidst a frenzy of interstate flights, festivals and late night mobile conversations in remote areas) was more than approved (Artery liked us so much they gave us bonus moneys!), and our collective has finally been able to align our diverse schedules with very exact phases of the moon & some arcane magicks, to allow us to meet and confirm the defining shape of our groundbreaking Burning Seed Virtual Reality Experience. Wahoo!

Now one could say that Burns are already an experience in an alternate reality, why would you want or need VR? Trust us, the experiences we will be bringing will be eminently appropriate to the Burn – interactive, colourful, musical and most importantly – consciousness-altering!

Virtual Reality is an incredibly powerful medium to express creativity in new, unique ways and is innately interactive. Whether you’ve never experienced VR, or you’ve spent hours in it – The Unreal will offer you something incredible and unique. And it’s going to be very glowy. So very, very glowy.

ārǣfan collective will be offering a selection of Virtual Reality experiences on the Paddock with The Unreal over 5 nights, including a completely new and built-just-for-Seed experience being a centerpiece of the project. We have been surprising ourselves how excited we all are as we begin the process of bringing this to Burning Seed. Here’s a tiny sneak peek with examples/dev/aesthetic of the experiences that will be offered…

Want to know more? Check out the project details here!

Want to volunteer? We’re looking for assistants on-Paddock and maybe a couple of extra pairs of hands for working-bee days in Melbourne over the next 2 months (usually Sundays) – pop us an email to info@araefan.org with your areas of expertise and availability! For the Melbourne working-bees we are particularly keen for folk with construction and/or electronics experience, on-Paddock we’re happy for all comers!

Want to follow and/or support the project? Sign up to our newsletter – we’ll be announcing our crowdfunding campaign shortly (with options to support whether you in Melbourne, attending Burning Seed, or International/not attending) plus more updates of the project builds both in VR and meatspace as our preparations continue! You can also follow and communicate with us on Twitter, Instagram, Mastodon and a whole range of other social media sites, see if you can collect them all!

We’re going to update here and through various channels with progress on the builds, both physical and virtual, so stay tuned. We really appreciate your support.



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