Burning Seed 2018 Proposal
Setting the scene
It is well past dusk. A red haze looms, before you, and as you approach closer, shadows and light begin to take more solid form. Laser cut voids, reminiscent of gothic windows, are backlit with red and outlined in a futuristic take on classic arches reaching up to vaulted points and flying buttresses.
As you continue to approach, you realise you are coming up on the side of the structure. As you head towards the front, you see a stronger beam illuminating a cut out figure, casting the silhouette upon the front of the structure. A change in texture from the protective wood, this part of the structure is plain canvas, set out slightly from the main body of the space, allowing the sharp edges of the projected figure to stand out, lead the eye towards what you now see must be the entrance, the gothic arch echoed, on two sides – an entrance and an exit, with mystery in between.
You can see light and movement within what appears to be the entrance. You approach with curiosity. Within, you find a simply furnished space with two friendly robed guides. One asks you have you ever experienced Virtual Reality before. You tell them your previous experience (or not), and they explain the headset you will wear and controllers you will use, and a brief explanation of the specific experience that is scheduled for this part of the evening. You allow your visual and auditory field to change as the headset goes on. What you see is now a different, virtual world. Your mind struggles to make sense of the cues it has taken for granted your whole life being suddenly overlaid with something… very different, and yet still comprehensible, tracked within this enclosed space. You experience, you create. Minutes seem to stretch much, much longer than real time.
The guide monitors what you see on the computer, and when the time is right, they call you back, remove the headset, and allow you time to reorient yourself back into the non-virtual space. You are indicated the way to the exit by one of your guides, who thanks you for your attendance.
You step back into the night, your mind whirring with the unexpected feelings that have been brought up by the experience. The theatre recedes.
In More Detail
The Unreal is a Virtual Reality “theatre” or environment-protected experience space. VR installations will be displayed / experienced with VR headset (HTC Vive) linked to computer, accessed and housed within an externally-lit environment protected platform 3.5x3.5 meters, with 1600w generator. A video projector and screen will be linked to the VR computer, displaying what the current participant is viewing, so other participants can anticipate a little of what they will be experiencing once they don the VR headset, to ease the transition to the virtual world. 6 different VR experiences will be available, 1 or 2 featured each evening of operation. Each night (Wed-Sat) the theatre will be open for 4-6 hours, from 6pm onwards. Experiences will average approximately 5 minutes (though will vary between experiences). Only one (possibly two with extra crowdfunding!) participant may be experiencing at a time, and depending on the experience they may be anywhere from completely supine, stationary up to ambulating through virtual space of 3 x 3 meters mapped onto the environment protected space within the structure with a ceiling level tracking system firmly mounted on extra-stable mounting points.
The experiences are described below.
1. Shards [Stephanie Andrews, 2016]
Virtual Reality Experience (2016).
In Shards, there are four different realities existing simultaneously, but all are initially invisible to the user. To experience them, the user can create viewport cubes and throw them into the area around them to reveal 3D portholes into those spaces. Shards is an active, playable experience, where participants are encouraged to explore and reveal the environment. It plays with ideas of history, as if the same place was being viewed through four different moments in time. The barren rocks, the green forest, the burnt forest, and the cityscape all co-exist. Through the act of exploration, users generate Cubist-inspired interpretations of perspective and dimensionality, contrasting multiple viewpoints in one composition.
2. Ghost Forest [Stephanie Andrews, 2016]
Virtual Reality Experience (2016).
Ghost Forest is a metaphor for the experience of being in two places at once, where one is your physical location, and the other is your internal emotional landscape. It contrasts the dry eucalyptus bush of Victoria, Australia with the dense, misty, pine-forested Pacific Northwest of North America. The landscapes intertwine spatially with each other, and aspects are revealed and hidden as the viewer moves through the environment. The stylized seen features hand-drawn 3D content and it uses a new technique of 3D masking that generates stereoscopic phenomenon not previously seen in VR. The place depicted in the experience is one of nebulous distortion and dislocation, generating subtle spatial illusions and encouraging a meditative exploration of the scene.
3. Shapeshifter [Stephanie Andrews, WIP]
Virtual Reality Experience (WIP).
At the beginning, the participant dons a motion tracking glove and head mounted VR display. When they look down at their own hand, they will see it represented in real-time as a disembodied hand of a 3D avatar. There is no other environment visible at this stage. However, soon the hand begins to unfold like origami as the user moves their fingers and wrist, revealing abstract ‘pocket universes’ within it. These small worlds inside the hand rapidly expand and explode out around the participant, becoming a whole environment of moving shapes that surround the user on all sides in the 360 landscape. One loses the relationship with action and response. The space continues to react to the bodies movement, but the links have been dissolved and distanced enough that one cannot track the relationships any more. There is a moment of loss and disorientation.
Then, after allowing the user to stay in the disorientation for a time, the experience begins to pull back in on itself. The disparate elements that have expanded outwards to become the encapsulating environment once again begin to collapse inwards towards the user. There is another moment, this of regained clarity, when the shapes begin to fold back into the self and the relations become trackable again. Now the hand of the participant begins to assemble itself once more, becoming again firmly attached to the avatar body of the user. However, this time, the situation is reversed from before. Instead of the solid pieces of hand geometry that composed the body of the user at the beginning, the hand is now composed of small windows onto the other world-spaces they have seen during the explosion phase of the experience. They now can only see into these spaces, but the genie can not quite be put back in the bottle.
Inside out, outside in.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. VR out-of-body experience
[Lachlan Sleight, Toby “Wintrmute” Corkindale, Cassandra Edwards & Stephanie Andrews, WIP, title TBC]
The main interactive experience to be created especially for Seed for the first time, is based on medical research from as far back as 2013, but with incorporated artistic and cultural elements. Original paper that our approach takes key elements from:
The participant will wear a VR headset, be connected to an ECG monitor and filmed with a stereoscopic camera which will feed into the VR headset view in real time. The ECG signal will be interpreted visually with custom software to be superimposed into the headset view, also in real time. The superimposition of the heartbeat visualisation causes the participant to associate embodiment with the viewed figure, convincing the mind that it is viewing the body from an external viewpoint, and is reported by researchers to provide a reliably consistent “out of body” experience. We are excited to be possibly the first collective to use this technique in combination with more artistic visualisations, in the hope of producing more profound and meaningful experiences for participants. We also believe we may be the first to use a stereoscopic camera for this technique and have hopes that it may provide an even more affective experience.
Project housing structure
Internal: flat and empty 3.5x3.5 meter interior space. Entry vestibule at front approx 1.5m wide by 3m long. Height 2.5m.External: laser cut panels, canvas vestibule area for queueing and preparing the participants for the experience. The structure’s external presentation will be suggestive of it’s interior nucleus – the VR experiences themselves. Cycling led lights will gently illuminate from behind the laser-cut shapes, revealing silhouettes of human and imaginal forms. As participants approach the structure they will pass through an outer perimeter marked by led lighting, into the first of three zones to queue. Once at the front of the queue they will be taken up one side of the structure two steps up onto the vestibule and into the second zone where they will be checked-in, welcomed and informed of the rules of the space and nature of the experience. Finally the participants will enter the interior of the space through a curtained doorway to the interior experiential zone. On exit they will leave via the other side of the vestibule.
While the external structure will contain sculptural elements and be 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 will interact with procedurally generated responsive virtual art pieces including in one, simulate 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.