Tagged: VR

Virtual Reliefs

I’ve been thinking hard about what I could produce at Anise. After some experiments with virtual relief sculptures, I believe I’m one step closer. It carries on from the work I’ve produced over the past few years and continues to look at more classical influences.

As a narrative, I’d like to keep it simple. I’m currently going through photographs from the past 3 years. Many of which capture everyday scenes in Athens, Portland, Berlin, London, Dublin and more. I’d like to collect different figures and scenarios and begin to put together crowded urban environments. Much of the focus will be on the use of the internet, consumer technology and the effects it has on the everyday scene. The paranoia of exaggerated news stories, the global obsession of social media and selfie culture, clueless smartphone users lost in the roads, the increasing intelligence of our surroundings, surveillance, smart buildings and cars…. etc. etc.

I  want to show the impact of ‘fake news’ and the miscommunication made possible through everyday access to live information. Tools such as the news bulletin and Twitter were created with the hope of informing the public positively, however it appears that the ambiguity of the information released only lends to confuse and misdirect those that use it. A more individual effect of this information onslaught is the re-evaluation of friendship in the 21st century. From having the unintended ability to monitor each others interaction with personal messages such as The “Read” appearing on a Facebook message, or the double tick on WhatsApp, to the amassing of Facebook friends that can accumulate almost everyone you’ve met in a decade. Forgive me, these are usually in a non professional capacity, LinkedIn, answers the other half of the spectrum. Whilst modern urban life is fast paced and time is clouded by the false impression of digital organisation apps and calendars, these features only act as catalysts for social anxiety, miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Social Media has impacted friendship and relationships, and what it means to meet and talk with others. Dating apps are an interesting example of this bizarre / semi-ironic trend of increasing online and decreasing offline interaction. Its ironic as it appears on the surface that social interaction has increased, but in fact feelings loneliness is on the rise. This is very debatable, for one, how long have humans been studying and recording feelings of loneliness, and two, social media is made for positivity, no one shares the shit day they’ve had. Scrolling through Facebook creates an understandable lack of fulfilment, especially if you are doing something mundane. This could go on. Every user has their own thoughts and feelings about this, this is just a small example of the initial thoughts I’m having about trying to capture modern urban scenes and the imbalance between digital and physical social interaction. A city scene without both aspects wouldn’t delve into this century’s current social snapshot.

I imagine the outcome will be a few rooms in VR along with some physical wall based work. Within the VR experience, the walls and ceilings will contain relief work and sculpture. The physical work will be reflections of the VR environment as well as ongoing experiments during the process.

Once again, I’m looking at work by Ghiberti and Rodin, but also L S Lowry, Keith Haring, Tamara de Lempicka and William Hogarth.

Below are images I’m using as inspiration for the initial stages of this project. Its basically a mood board.

Ghiberti:

Rodin:

Lowry:

Haring:

de Lempicka:

Hogarth:

AR/VR: The 360 Illusion of Empathy

VR/AR and 360 video are in their early commercial stages. One of the first obvious applications is to put the viewer in the shoes of another person or animal. This will naturally allow the user to develop a greater empathy for the experience shown, however, in its infancy, VR/AR is a spectacle. Similar to the explosion of consumer content on the
Smartphone or the commercial release of television sets, applications and content, for the
most part, revolve around entertainment and gimmick. For the medium to generate impactful sympathy in its users, to the point where a change in characteristics and behaviour take place, the content has to be readily available on a day to day basis. This is clear in daily TV news, charity advertising and radio broadcasting.

Experiencing 360 footage taken by a homeless person or a refugee is impactful and begins a cycle whereby the user can relate to the everyday surroundings of that person. In order for change to take place, this cycle needs to come around to help or aid the people in need. At the moment, it’s clear that 360 footage is giving an insight into these surroundings, but isn’t necessarily generating any more impact from the empathy experienced than was done so before with sound, photography, film and live information updates.

This is not a completely pessimistic outlook. There is a definite possibility that Virtual Reality will trigger sympathetic gestures and actions, or perhaps alter behaviours in the near future.

There’s no doubt that it will be similar to previous broadcasting technologies, and potentially more significant in achieving sympathetic reactions. Examples so far are from living in Gaza, to life in the Ebola crisis or Chris Milk’s Clouds over Sidra. All of these are intense struggles for those involved and the 360 content certainly gives an insight into the everyday life of the subject, however I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable by my lack of ability to do anything other than view these terrible and tragic scenarios. Then again, maybe expressing that feeling is the impact that it has. At what point does voyeurism in this capacity become too life-like? And after experiencing such a life-like tragedy at what point is it wrong not to act to help those involved or those in similar situations?

There is an element of sympathetic thought whilst engaging in these experiences, but at the same time, like the consumers of photography and film, it is much farther from sympathetic interaction than is needed to make a difference in these crises. New users are understandably hung up in the spectacle of Virtual Reality or 360 videos but to push this forward, the documentary content needs to play to a continuation of media and an ability to interact with the people concerned. This is for me the main problem with television, but also the beauty of Twitter and other interactive platforms. I hope that 360 video can find a balance between voyeurism and positive interaction / charitable giving if it continues to focus on such mammoth crises of our time. I also wonder whether 360 broadcasting will become a centrepiece for news broadcasting. There are a number of ethical questions that arise if this was to be. In the heat of the moment, the camera can’t be turned away, only turned off!

AR/VR Write Up

This residency was a pilot and although rough around the edges, I can’t imagine there’s another in the world that has this level of equipment and technical support in this field. I approached it with an interest to create, however I should have been focused on meeting, working and talking with those around me. This is the best outcome I had from the entire
experience. Meeting and talking through ideas with Thomas, Philip, Phillipe, Marit, Theo, Nick and the artists Yaloo, Rosa and Victoria.

I’d spent the last year teaching myself, through the wonders of online resources, how to
create VR environments. I had never delved into any element of the pipeline before and now have at least a mild knowledge in some key areas. I only completed my MA in August of this year, so am naturally in a period of hunger to get going. Initially, I was frustrated with the opening workshops. After one day, it was fine, but 3 days of workshops where I felt I had to stop everything and listen began to frustrate me. To the point that on the last day of the workshops, even though I would have loved to learn about the topics, I wasn’t listening, and my motivation had swayed. It was amazing to hear from such well-seasoned professionals in the industry, however I was (and am still) in a period of drive to create. I don’t think it was the content of the workshops in the end, as understandably, not everyone will have played around with the necessary software. It was the intensity and compression of information. The pipeline is vast, and the residency is relatively short for what it aims to achieve. It seems to me that it would have been better to have a morning of workshops and an afternoon of creative application. This would allow for more of the information to settle. However, this frustration was a sort of ‘kid in a candy shop’ feeling. Oregon Story Board was very well kitted out for the aims of the residency, and I just wanted to run wild. For the majority of the time, this was allowed, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I wish I could do this on a day to day basis! My only issue with the space was its opening hours. I would have loved to be able to have more access to the kit in the night-time. Given the vast pipeline of VR / AR production, it would have been incredible for the residency to be longer than it was. Nonetheless, the time I spent there was invaluable and has already had a very positive impact on my practice.

Although the residency focused on the creation of AR/VR, at points I felt more contextual and conceptual discussion was needed. After all, as artists we’re not there to become technicians, but instead to shed a new perspective on everyday things that we usually don’t give a moment’s notice, or perhaps a balance between these two areas of creativity. At art school, one of the most valuable things I took part in was to discuss my work with professional mid / late career artists and gallerists in similar fields with similar interests. These would be half an hour one to one talks, (sometimes longer), where you are told to explain what you’re doing. Essentially, it’s a short concentrated period of reflection on why you’re doing what you’re doing. As defining fine art seems to be a constant battle with existentialism and reason, I think these discussions are important. (I say that unless of course the art is intentionally trying to reject that battle…). It seems even more essential for artists taking the leap into technology that a focus on conceptual knowledge over technical is re-iterated by practicing artists in the field. I had a brilliant discussion with Theo and Marit on the final day however would have loved a dialogue throughout. There was some discussion between the residents, even some constructive heated debate, but not enough in my opinion. Having said that, and having had some time to reflect, I am approaching my current work with a better awareness of empathy towards the subjects I draw inspiration from and have a revived openness to collaboration (and Unity!). Having jumped into the residency straight from the competitive arena that is art school, this has been a healthy and positive next step. Its value is coming clearer as times moves on.

We were neither advised or prompted to make a piece of work. However, from receiving the email of acceptance, I knew I wanted to create something and preferably with the Hololens. I’ve seen so many demonstrations of it online, and have anticipated its impact. Having now tried it, it’s not perfect, and in many ways, it’s so obviously imperfect that it already feels primitive, (not that I’ve seen what it evolves to become.) For some strange reason, it reminded me of the original Gameboy, a palm pilot or an Apple 1.

My whole experience was constructive, informative and on reflection, integral to evolving my practice. Since being back in London, I’m working on a VR experience on the subject of grief. Having spent the two weeks looking into perceived empathy in AR/VR, the residency has been a great starting point to jump into this next project. One of the best outcomes I’ve found has been a re-vitalized confidence in my abilities to create AR/VR content, (I’ve also gone back to Unity). This has come about through discussing my technique and work with those around me on the residency, particularly Thomas, Theo, Philip (Blender Guru II) and Marit. The speakers and professionals that attended the workshops were knowledgeable and from backgrounds that gave a varied insight into the industry. They are the type of minds I wish I could work with on a daily basis. Meeting the other artists and members of the residency was invaluable, and I hope to maintain friendships and/or working relationships with everyone! I can’t speak for others experiences on other residencies, but for my first residency, it was as good and impactful as I’d hoped.

AR/VR Residency -Portland US.

SONY DSC

In November last year I was lucky enough to be accepted on an artist residency in Portland, Oregon. The residency was organised by Thomas Weuster and Theo Downes-le-Guin in coordination with UpFor Gallery (Theo’s gallery) and Oregon Storyboard.

I wanted to capture a small essence of what this trip meant for me and my practice, as well as the conversations of VR as an artistic medium. Having finished my MA in August 2016, this was a quick catapult into a professional environment. Through meeting the fellow residents Victoria, Rosa and Yaloo, I learnt of their experiences in the art world, some of whom had been on the road with their work for some time! These were artists who had been part of a number of residencies and exemplified the positive effects it had had on their practice. Meeting people from around the world with similar interests seems to be the overwhelming joy of each of their experiences.

I’m not going to capture what it was in 1 post. This is just a short intro to the time I had in Portland…

I arrived the day before the US Election 2016… in which a potentially dangerous bigoted idiot was elected.

This account is going to start at the end.