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When Art and VR Collide in LA

The left brain and the right brain came together for a party.

For artists, VR is a thrilling emerging medium that explorse the boundaries of creation. Creators of all skill levels make good use of Tilt Brush, creating magical multi-layered art within a 3D space. And don’t worry — for those of you who haven’t touched a paintbrush since elementary school, it’s still fun to scribble, draw flowers, or write your name in space.

Creative technologists are enthusiastically including Tilt Brush and other virtual reality art tools like Quill and Medium to their digital toolkits —  and VR, of course, is only adding to a long history of humans using machines to create beauty.

Art and tech have always been closely interwoven, and communities that bring people together in real life around those innovations are essential facilitations for creative collaborations.

Perhaps no one believes in the importance of building community around art + tech more than Next Art founder, Natalie Sun. An artist herself, Natalie is leading the way for experimental, tech-focused art in Los Angeles. The Next Art LA events are high concept art shows with a vibrant party atmosphere, giving innovative artists a chance to show off their work in a physical space.

The latest event by Next Art was a success. Artists, tech nerds, writers, and many more entered Playa Studios in early March for an evening without boundaries between technology, art, and music. A few brave guests dared to bust out their moves to the new-age techno and hip hop hits of today blasted by a DJ underneath flashing neon lights. Other, slightly more reserved guests sipped on drinks and mingled with friends and strangers alike as they admired the artwork and took photos in Snapchat’s photo booth.

The exhibits themselves ranged from a massive wall display of robotic, bug like creatures that guests could interact with using a HTC Vive controller, to a VR experience that transported you into the world of the artist’s dreams. One of the most interesting pieces was inspired by a reinterpretation of radio music, mixing together live streams from today’s monochromatic, online radio stations to create something both entertaining and thought provoking.

When asked how she chose what to feature in her show, Sun’s answer was simple. “When I curate, I look for pieces that use tech in ways you don’t expect.” Though she couldn’t choose a favorite piece, she did heap praise on a so-called “happy accident.” The flashing LED lights strung from the ceiling—a major hit with selfie-shooting guests—were originally not intended to hang to the ground as they did. Sun believes that the music interactive light exhibit did an unintentionally perfect job of wrapping up the theme of the night, “Music is Social.”

Though she has considered the creative possibilities of displaying digital art in an online exhibit, Sun has seen first-hand the magic that happens when creators and consumers of all different industries come together in a physical environment to enjoy the displayed works and the event as a whole. She loves telling the story of a graphic designer who attended one of her events, only to team up with a game developer in an unlikely collaboration. “If both of those people didn’t come to my event, they would have never been able to branch out of their own disciplines and try something new.”

As for the future of art, Sun recognizes the uncertainty going forward as tech continues to advance at a rapid pace. “We really don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said, “that’s the beauty of it.”

She sees the potential for social VR to be the next big thing in the techie/art space, and plans on continuing to curate and create imaginative and innovative pieces.

She closed the interview with a call-to-action we can all get behind: “Support the arts!”

Right on, Natalie. Right on.

VRScout’s Malia Probst sits down with Natalie Sun in the latest podcast episode of the Real Virtual Show. Listen below:

About the Scout

Presley West

Emory University student, VRScout Intern, Storyteller, and Amateur Dog Walker.

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