Burning Seed 2018 – “The Unreal”
What was this craziness??
Burning Seed is Australia’s largest Burning Man regional event, and has been held in spring the Matong State Forest, roughly mid-way between Sydney and Melbourne, each year since 2012. For 2018, ārǣfan collective submitted a large art grant proposal for Burning Seed and was successful, and after several months of hard work creating a brand new virtual reality experience and structure in which to safely allow participants to experience VR, we shepherded Burning Seed participants through “The Unreal” for approximately 4 hours each evening, from 26-29th September.
In More Detail
The Unreal is a Virtual Reality experience “theatre” or environment-protected experience space. VR installations are experienced with VR headset (HTC Vive) and biometric information taken from the participant with a custom built heart rate monitoring device worn as a “data glove” as well as live physical visual information using a depth camera. The camera is suspended above the participant who is instructed to lay upon the “cloud bed” (a low 1 person bed surrounded by recycled PET “clouds” lit with seed lights, and a wireframe room guide, which is mirrored in VR – a very unusual experience and designed to be familiarizing and comforting). A supine position is indicated for the type of experience created as the depth camera has limited range and we wished to allow a mental impression of the body suspended above the bed, in the sky and floating on a cloud.
All is accessed and housed within an externally-lit environment protected platform 4x4 meters, with 1600w generator. A video projector and screen (shaped like a cloud, as is “The Unreal” logo, to pull the visual theme together) linked to another computer which also serves as a back up in case of any issues with the main computer, and generative visuals were displayed in the projector screen which cycles and changed continuously. 4 different VR experiences were available @ Seed, 1- 3 featured each evening of operation. Each night (Wed-Sat) the theatre was open for approximately 4-5 hours, from 7pm onwards – between 11pm-12am participants mostly became thin on the ground as temperatures plummeted around that time. Experiences were all approximately 5 minutes. Only one participant could experience at a time, and depending on the experience they were anywhere from completely supine, stationary up to ambulating through virtual space of 4 x 4 meters mapped onto the environment protected space within the structure with a ceiling level tracking system firmly mounted on tripods.
The experiences are described below.
1. VR out-of-body experience [Lachlan Sleight, Toby “Wintrmute” Corkindale, Cassandra Edwards & Stephanie Andrews, 2018]
The main interactive experience was created especially for Seed for the first time, based on medical research from as far back as 2013, but with incorporated artistic and cultural elements.
The participant wears a VR headset, connected to a heart rate pulse monitor and is filmed with a depth camera which feeds into the VR headset view in real time and with algorithmic variations and distortions of the real-time data from the depth camera, which change and progress in organic fashion over the course of the experience. The pulse signal is interpreted visually with custom software superimposed into the headset view, also in real time. The superimposition of the heartbeat visualisation makes it more possible for the participant to associate embodiment with the viewed figure, convincing the mind that it is viewing the body from an external viewpoint. We are excited to be possibly the first collective to use the depth camera realtime data with algorithmic overlays technique to create more artistic visualisations, in the hope of producing more profound and meaningful experiences for participants.
We received glowing feedback from many who experienced “The Unreal”, and enjoyed the challenge of working with so much new technology in such a creative space.
The out of body experience was presented Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evening.
2. Psyia [Lachlan Sleight, 2017]
In a black void, several hundred thousand tiny cubes dance and flow around gravitational fields emitted from the Vive controllers. Endless hypnotic and beautiful behaviours emerge from the simplest of physical laws. Psyia is a music visualisation laboratory + meditation VR experience.
Psyia was presented on Saturday night, after the Effigy Burn.
3. Vectra [Lachlan Sleight, 2016]
Vectra places you in a room full of mirrors and lets you create three-dimensional, hypercolour ribbons that make music even as you dance around with them.
Vectra was presented on Saturday night, after the Effigy Burn.
4. Unnamed [Lachlan Sleight, 2018]
“Psyia and Vectra got together and had a baby!”
presented on Saturday night, after the Effigy Burn.
Structure & Decor
Internal: flat and empty 4x4 meter interior space with heavy duty industrial rubber mat floor. Height 2m walls rising to 3m marquee center point. External: 2 feature artwork sides, each comprised of 4 x 2x1m ply panels, one with router cut design, the other acrylic front panel with vinyl cut design. Each panel lit by approximately 300 LEDs, the structure’s external presentation was inspired by a combination of the event theme “Ancient Future” and to be suggestive of it’s interior nucleus – the VR experiences themselves. Cycling led lights gently illuminated from behind the router & vinyl-cut shapes, revealing silhouettes of human built and imaginal forms. As participants approach the structure they will see the queueing area stand out with a series of 9 40cmx40cm LED cube seats, each decorated with vinyl cut designs based on generative art captured within Lachlan’s Psyia then manipulated digitally with a scanline effect. Once at the front of the queue they are checked-in, welcomed and informed of the rules of the space and nature of the experience. Finally the participants enter the interior of the space through a curtained doorway to the interior experiential zone. On exit they leave from the same curtained entryway.
While the external structure contained colourful and visually engaging elements is a work of art in and of itself, the main interactive features are the VR experiences. VR functions by measuring body movement in space and replacing the subject’s visual and auditory fields with corresponding on-the-fly visual and auditory stimuli. The movements of the participates determines their experience. Participants interact with procedurally generated responsive virtual art pieces including an out-of-body-experience enabled by the immersive affordances of VR coupled to their own heartbeat. No two experiences will be alike in these installations. This is interactivity on steroids.
If you’re curious about the original proposal submitted, you can find it here!