LATE NIGHTS & VR ENVIRONMENTS
Firstly, I have no idea where this is going, yet, only that since my discovery that the technology was possible, relatively accessible and indeed in my hands, I have been compelled, propelled, towards many late nights and frustrating errors along the journey toward creating the most utterly basic and ridiculously unimpressive virtual reality environments within which, at least initially, to house some of my future video work.
I know that part of my moving toward and through these spaces will be through making work and experimenting with the technology, and part will be through writing about it. I wondered if writing, and housing that writing, digitally, in the same way that the work must be created and housed or located digitally would add meaning, synergy or some other affordance to the development of whatever it is that is happening to my practice in this space. So, here goes.
Since my childhood years, watching Beyond 2000 on the ABC, virtual reality was a technology touted as game-changing. I would watch and dream of one day putting on a headset and being launched into a world within which everything was possible. Stephen King's Lawnmower Man was the stuff of dreams; the body, released to be endlessly imaginable and unimaginable digital forms. I always imagined that virtual reality (VR) would be an important part of the future that I would be living in. And although VR is absolutely here, absolutely accessible, absolutely proliferate in online experiences and gaming culture. It has not yet materialised in the mainstream 'going about of our day to day lives.
In some ways, the restrictions of hardware have something to do with this, yet even the promised or augmented reality (AR) via our smartphones are still yet to be realised in meaningful and dynamic ways and are often still limited to the realms of gaming.
The role of the artist, I believe, presents exciting opportunities to shape and create the forming of these futures. There is something beyond entertainment and beyond product placement that provides exciting opportunities to consider, space, form, embodiment and access to contemporary thinking and creative practice.
Metamorphosis; its possibility, pursuit, mythologising and metaphorical employment, charts a long, textual history through the ages; tied to our power of being projectors of meaning; the throwing of ourselves onto the surfaces of the world. So, as an artist, how do I make this worlding a deliberate or obvious act, what are the processes that bring it to bare and how does the work, the exhibition, the space of presentation perform those worlds? How can I harness the 'already there' notions of those spaces and activate them in more meaningful and energetic ways? What is the role then of digital space and what affordances lay within the possibilities of the activation and deployment of those spaces? Furthermore, what is the role of the body in those spaces? How can it be liberated, re-embodied, how can it be revealed as otherwise? These are just some of the questions these initial experiments have thrown up, certainly enough to keep me busy.
I discovered that recently Adobe acquired a number of companies who provided VR plugins for the creation of immersive 360 environments. I also discovered that these technologies lived on my computer and that After Effects had pretty much everything I needed to investigate building spaces for my work and building spaces as my work. So I set about learning as much as I could from forums, threads, YouTube tutorial and whatever else I could find to familiarise myself with the built-in tools to start to create my own VR environments. There is not a great deal of information out there yet. Nevertheless, I have after many failed starts and squandered hours of rendering time managed to navigate the program to create firstly a tight cube with walls that projects video footage I created for I AM A TEXT and a more immersive 360-degree landscape with circles and video. These are my first successful attempts and can be viewed on screen and with a headset like Google Cardboard.
Neither of these is remarkable in any way other than they are successful attempts of creating these immersive environments, and are the beginnings of coming to terms with the tools required for future work.