The usage of virtual reality (VR) has been evident in the past and is one of the most prominent advancements in technology in today’s world. In the art scene, VR has played an essential part to bring many artworks into the digital realm, enhancing convenience and the interactive experience.
By implementing different types of gear for different body parts, VR allows people to have a fully immersive experience with the artwork. The most important part being the headset that shows a 360 degree of the virtual environment. There is a huge amount in the flexibility that artists can use in VR as the spaces are infinite and imaginary. One example of VR works that use this space is i-REAL, a hypermedia artwork that mixes the contributions of a trip in virtual reality, a map of JE(U) with i-REAL cards and in the future an artificial intelligence. The board game is the hotspot of the system. It is composed of about thirty i-REAL cards previously developed on the Instagram social network using the maximum of #hashtags available to install links between words / images. The use of three randomly available cards – but renewable – connected to the card JE(U) by an NTFC chip with the help of two dices, triggers the corresponding sequences in VR. To turn the map JE (U) – actually composed of three PART-i that can turn around the same axis – in order to connect the maps and reveal the locations where the keys will open the sequences in VR, the cheek must roll the dice and maybe, in a version 2.0, win the right to tackle artificial intelligence. (https://culturevr.fr/en/i-real/)
The use of VR stems from the concept of hypermedia, which was a concept that appeared after the war. It talks about the matter of which the World Wide Web is made. Much like the physical world is built of interacting elementary particles (Bosons and Fermions), the web is essentially a universe of myriad interacting hypermedia documents. But since the early 1990s, the general concept of hypermedia has been largely superseded in popular usage by the term “interactive multimedia.” And this term is now used to portray works that involve the interactivity of the human senses towards an artwork.
In terms of space and conducting of the artwork, VR helps to minimise the physical space needed for the work to occur, as the only gear required is the headset and the gear. It also increases the convenience of bringing the artwork around and the work can be experienced in different environments.
All in all, VR contributes positively to society and is a useful asset to many artworks as more artists pursue digital alternatives.
The one work that has piqued my interest from our trip to ArtScience Museum was the first work – Universe of water particles, Transcending Boundaries.
The work features a digital projection of a waterfall that extends from the wall to the floor. When one steps into the space, he/she can interact with the waterfall by either going up to the wall and standing infront of the waterfall to create a space between the waterfalls, or changing the flow of water on the floor by just standing at the same spot for a prolonged period of time.
What piqued my interest was the fact that the work was able to cater for a large group of people, in the way that even if there are many people, they are still able to detect the specific ones that stay in the same spot, so that the water can part. Using the sensors to identify these specific parties is very impressive, and also the fact that it can work simultaneously and smoothly. In addition, the feedback to the work is very positive, especially since the work is displayed in a very aesthetically pleasing manner.
Improvements that can be made would be smoother transitions when the water is parted, and maybe crowd control can be implicated so that more focus can be put on the animation and not on catering to sensing a big group of people.
On 22 and 23 August, collaborative INTER-MISSION showcased their artwork: Life Circuit: I/O, which incorporated Lee Kang-so’s Disappearance, Bar in the Gallery (1973) at National Gallery Singapore. The work showcased 2 parts, which lasted throughout the 2 days.
The first part showcased one of the artists wearing a headgear that covered his whole face, and wherever he moved, the device would send sound feedback which acts as a recording of his movements.
The second part showcased the artists and 4 dancers. One of the dancers was wearing a contraption that recorded himself and also projected that exact recording in real-time. The other dancers all had phones with them that were on a video call, and they danced around the scene, with the phone recording their actions as well. These videos were then combined and put onto 1 projector screen at the front of the exhibition. One of the artists (the one who was wearing the headgear on the first day) played the sound recordings that were received on the first day. After a while, the dancer passed the contraption to the audience to let them try out the projection. The performance ended when the artist wore the contraption and stood in front of the artist who did the sound feedback.
They adapted Lee Kang-so’s Disappearance, Bar in the Gallery (1973) by making the performance venue seem like an olden food stall, with wooden benches and tables set-up. The audience could buy food and drinks while enjoying the performance.
The concept behind Life Circuit was to provide an alternative reality to which the audience observes the artist record his movement and perception of the exact space that the audience is sitting in. The use of technological products highlights their experiments and explorations of intersections between video art, music and performance.
There is consistency within the Life Circuit works that are done by INTER-MISSION, in terms of the materials that they use – reconstructed industrial headgear, such as welding goggles, gas mask, and earmuffs, as video and audio wearable gadgets. Also in how they conduct their experiments, having one performance that is the input of the space, and the other performance being the output. However, the difference is the interaction between the artists and the audience, and how responsive the audience is to the artists’ feedback. The second performance involves the audience’s reactions and participation, giving the work more personalization where the audience’s perception of the space is recorded on the big screen.
Using Lee Kang-so’s Disappearance, Bar in the Gallery (1973) emphasized on the warped reality that the space provided to the audience. When I stepped into the performance space, it was no longer an open space in a gallery, but a small cafe setting and the artist’s mapping the space using their devices was a mapping of the cafe setting and not the gallery. It brought the audience to experience a certain memory that the artists had, even though it may be personal but still resonated within the audience. The atmosphere was less tense, with the presence of benches and tables, for the audience to sit around and interact.
The first day showcased the artist’s impression of the space and his impression of the reality seen through his goggles, which were 2 smaller screens that showcased what he ‘sees’, even though he could not see anything. The sound feedback was then used as a recording of his perception of the space later in the second performance, which was played as a contrast to the current group of people who were recording their perception of the same performance space through a video call. In addition, pure impressions from the audience were also recorded when they walked around with the contraption and it varied depending on how long they wore the contraption.
This work showcased the impressions of different people about the same space, while each person who were in this performance, audience included had a different reality and impression of the performance etched on their mind. Contrast was shown through the live video feedback of the dancers and the participants, with the sound feedback that was the artist’s impression. The reality differs where in the first performance the artist was not able to see or sense his surroundings and just walked around blindly, using sound as the feedback, while in the second round the audience and dancers could see what they were doing, or where they were going, thus they had more control over which direction they wanted to step towards, or the obstacles that were in front of them. The audience who sat around also had a different perspective as they had a view of the whole scene and what was happening to each party, they also had the choice to leave whenever they want or to stay throughout the whole duration.
It was interesting to watch the different perspectives that different people could provide about the same scene and the same performance. Although all of us were at the same scene at the same time, the different impressions created during that span of time was extremely unexpected (from the artists who knew what they were doing, and from the audience who had no idea what was going on). It also showed how technology can be used to show the tangibility of something psychological.
One piece of interactive art that has caught my attention is the “Face Instrument”, “Face Visualiser”, by Japanese artist Daito Manabe. Inspired by the work of French researcher Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne and Australian artist Stelarc, Daito Manabe decided to play with the interaction between electronics and the muscular structure of the human face, and by sending different electronic signals to wires taped to different parts of the human face, he could control the facial expressions of the participants. In addition, he added music tones to different wires and created a musical piece with the facial features of the participants.
The experiment works 2 ways, either Daito Manabe could send electronic signals to the participants and control their facial expressions (thus giving the participants no opinion/ control whatsoever), or the participants could move their facial features and send music feedback to Daito Manabe. It is interesting as there are different combinations and feedback depending on who is the main controller of the work. Also, I feel that this work is a prime example of using scientific elements (the human anatomy and electronic knowledge) to create a work of art that is light-hearted and can be appreciated by different types of people.
Concept wise, Daito Manabe was trying to highlight how eternally influenced expressions stand in contrast to a human smile caused by real emotions (everythingvisual.net) and to create music out of the human nervous system.
I feel that this work does highlight the manipulation of expression physically, and how external influence can change your exterior appearance, but not your internal emotions. In addition, with the usage of this device, the human expression can be cloned from one person to another, diminishing the uniqueness of the human expression. It highlights how technology can advance to the stage where even humanistic expressions can be manipulated, and the fact that true emotion may not be portrayed physically anymore.
On another viewpoint, this work can also highlight the importance of human emotion, as Daito Manabe’s collaborator said “we can make fake smile with sending electric stimulation signals from computer to face, but no one can make real smile without humans emotion.” Ultimately, no matter how much electronic signals can manipulate the human expression, the most natural expression on the human face can only come from true emotion.
Musically, this artwork has opened up many paths for musical exploration, as the human face was not thought of as a contraption for music expression. If the contraption was used in the format where the participant created expressions which produced different sounds, this work could be used to show how natural expression produced different sound feedback. It also provides a closer connection between the participant and the music they have created.
All in all, this work is a good way of portraying the importance of true emotion and the manipulation of human expression through electronic signals and it has inspired me to think of how much the human structure can be manipulated by different types of contraptions and devices, while exploring many more facial expressions the human face can make.