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VR Gets Experimental At Moving Image New York 2017

The immersive NYC art exhibition featured some truly creative virtual reality installations.

The Moving Images immersive art fair has officially shut its doors to the public, but not before blowing the collective minds of hundreds of New Yorkers with an impressive gallery of single-channel videos, single-channel projections, video sculptures, immersive media, and other larger video installations. The exhibition featured the best and brightest in experimental new media, which naturally included several artists utilizing virtual reality for their innovative projects. From an interactive tour through the winding corridors of the human brain, to a giant cube that combines the virtual with the real, here are a few of the coolest virtual reality installations we were fortunate enough to experience.

WORLD AND PLACE EVAPORATING

By Christopher Manzione & Seth Cluett

moving-image-new-york-vr5In what had to be the most physically jarring of all the projects on display, World And Place Evaporating was a unique project that utilized actual reflective surfaces to warp your perspective while in the virtual world. Using the HTC Vive and a wall of silver rectangles, this installation was all about playing with points of reference and altering how your brain processes its surroundings. After putting on the headset and launching into a lush digital forest, I turned around to see the same wall of reflective rectangles standing in front of me, creating an interesting warped perspective as they reflected the tall trees and tangled vines. It was almost like a pack of Predators were surrounding me. Lets just say if anyone came up behind me while in the experience, they were getting a swift horse-kick to the chest.

However as I explored the abstract woods I noticed  that one rectangle surface was different. Instead of reflecting the various trees and leaves in my virtual world, it actually projected a reflection of myself within the real world. Using the built-in camera on the HTC Vive headset I was able to view myself back in reality, standing inside the Waterfront Tunnel space. It was really interesting watching myself with a headset on while still engulfed in a virtual forest.

From there I was able to walk around the designated space and interact with different orbs that transported me to various locations. One orb played with my perspective even further by instantly transporting me face down mere inches away from the surface of an icy river. Hovering parallel with a running stream and seeing the trees shoot from the earth perpendicular to myself was an incredibly odd sensation, which according to the artist was the primary intent of the piece:

“World and Place Evaporating examines layers of reality that both dissipate and reveal, shifting orientations that become incursions on our comfort, and the ever shifting framing of our point of reference that highlight the narratives we tell ourselves about what we’ve done.”

LATTICEDOMAIN_VISUALIZE

By Brenna Murphy

moving-image-new-york-vrHaving already won the 2016 P3 Post-Photography Prototyping Prize for her first VR piece, StrandScape_Nexus, Brenna Murphy is no stranger to using virtual reality in her installations. This time the experimental artist sought to build on the hyper-dimensional theme with LatticeDomain_Visualize. The slightly-disorientating experience had me standing beneath the center of several continually spinning hollow cubes within what can only be described as a ‘dream-like’ plain of existence. The outlines of said cubes, as well as the floor and various other objects, were all wrapped in beautifully colorful and mind-numbingly eclectic designs. Seeing these various patterns rotate around me in synchronization as I walked through the hectic scene was almost hypnotic.

Brenna Murphy has said, “I work deeply in both virtual and physical realms, weaving elements from one into the other. This strengthens the pathways between realms , revealing inherent parameters and underlying structures.”

PRIMAL TOURISM: ISLAND

By Jakob Kudsk Steensen

Developed over the course of over 8 months, Primal Tourism: Island combines colonialism, tourism and science fiction to create a truly unique experience that’s as accurate as it is imaginative. The cool thing about the project is that the experience is designed to begin before you even put the headset on. My adventure started as I entered a large green-lit cube where a lone Oculus Rift hung from the center on a rusty construction hook tied to some shanty rope. As I walked towards the center I noticed the floor was covered in a thick layer of sand, something I had a feeling would come into play very soon.

I donned the headset, took control of an Oculus Remote and was transported forward in time to a futuristic Borabora island resort that had long since been abandoned. As I walked down the beach I felt the real-life sand I mentioned earlier shift beneath my feet, adding a great deal to the realism of the experience. The accurate 1:3 rendition of the famous vacation destination was contrasted by scattered remnants of a futuristic civilization, giving me a strong sense of loneliness despite being in such an uplifting environment. Clicking different positions on the remote brought me to different points of the island, experiencing everything from crystal clear coasts to mysterious man-made structures.

Despite including the scattered remains of a futuristic society, Jakob took great measure to insure a high level of accuracy in his depiction of the French Polynesian location. Utilizing Unreal Engine, the construction of the virtual island was actually based on real satellite data and travel journals catalogued by anonymous users on Reddit. The artist attributes much of his inspiration to the logbook of Jacob Roggeveen, a trader for the East West Indian Trading Company in 1722. Primal Tourism: Island is a perfect blend of real-world environments and futuristic elements that beautifully demonstrate how immersiveness in virtual reality can begin well before the headset is on.

INSIDE

By Rebecca Allen

moving-image-new-york-vr2INSIDE was a fascinating piece that guided me on a tour through the inner workings of the human brain and escorted me through three different worlds that each played with my sensory perception. In an attempt to establish connections between virtual and real humans as well as explore the sensations of being immersed in artificial nature, the experience  took me to the experimental and ominous Night Desert, the fascinating Brain Cave and the soothing mountainous fields of Nature.

The most interesting parts definitely came while exploring what Allen calls the Brain Cave. Using the HTC Vive headset and controller, I navigated the dark crevices with a flashlight, uncovering the floating faces of random individuals as they drifted throughout the empty mind. Soon after my controller became a music baton for me to conduct and draw musical patterns with. Every swing of my controller not only emitted a sound, but created a continuous musical bar that I could literally wrap around myself like some kind of musical mummy. Obviously these were all references to the many functions of the brain, serving as a physical representation of what parts such as the central cortex and medulla oblongata can do. The entire model was derived from actual MRI brain scans to ensure absolute authenticity. Along with exploring the human brain, Allen also sought to visualize how virtual reality can be similar to hallucinations: “VR worlds can be like hallucinations – another reality leaking into our ‘real’ world and the artist explores this by using universal signifiers of hallucinations.”

moving-image-new-york-vr4Overall it was an exciting event full of some genuinely inspiring pieces of work. Whether it be the interesting combination of nature and technology in Primal Tourism: Island, or the bizarre perspectives of World and Place Evaporated, Moving Image New York 2017 has brought some of the boldest thinkers together for one of the most interesting new age art exhibits I’ve ever been to.

About the Scout

Kyle Melnick

Kyle is a writer for VRScout also working in new media production. He's also a part-time bounty hunter.

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