I’ve been the creative director of the Rilao project at Alex McDowell’s World-Building Media Lab at USC this past summer. Rilao is an imaginary city that our team has simulated as a high-resolution, fully explorable space in the game engine Unity and the Occulus Rift virtual reality platform.
The Rilao project also includes multiple individual projects that are meant to function as design fiction artifacts from that world.
The Leviathan Project is another immersive experience developed at the world-building lab, incorporating virtual and augmented reality to flesh out a narrative space.
“Dollhouse Desert”, a collaboration between Karl Baumann, Nicolette G.D and I, was screened last week at the State of the Arts 2013: the Future of Fulldome Festival. The host was the Vortex Immersive Media Dome at L.A. Center Studios. This is my first excursion into the fulldome format, and I found it incredibly fun and challenging.
The unconventional orientation of the spectators translates into a whole new vocabulary for camera motion and field of view. Fulldome is a medium that can both create the visceral impression of swallowing the viewer and offer moments of poetic stillness. “Dollhouse Desert” immerses the spectactor in a surreal mental landscape in which claustrophobia and the call of the void become complimentary affective states that seamlessly alternate.
The sculpture of found objects with tests projections was presented at the Media Arts and Practice division’s annual exhibition, iMappening. The test projections give a good idea of the effect of animation on the very disparate textures of the objects. The bear particularly, with its fluffy, silky coat, was mesmerizing to watch. Reactions were enthusiastic, especially from the youngest visitors! I think it can legitimately qualify as an “attraction”. Adults, more discriminating, would walk around the sculpture to peer at individual configurations of objects, attached together, often in aerodynamic and precarious configurations, through armature wires inserted into chains of objects.
Assistant Dean Michael Renov qualified the 3D collages as surrealist, which actually led me into a whole theoretical investigation for my dissertation over the summer. The sculpture is not quite finished – as you can see, the two by fours that serve as its support structure are still visible and I am currently experimenting with different filler materials such as ping pong balls and styrofoam pellets to created a topologically interesting landscape around the objects.
I also designed the poster, catalogue and postcards for the exhibition – the steampunk/Muybridge unicorn being of course the perfect allegory for the Media Arts and Practice program!
One of the prototype bots for Polyangylene! This creature is a hexapod with six hips and six knees, able to navigate its environment by detecting obstacles through ultrasonic radar. For now, its walking functions are limited to forward and reverse, but I’ll be adding more interesting behaviors to Hex (hard not to give it a name)…including dancing and swarming.
I had to re-blog this post from Colossal. This is a mockumentary by German digital artist Till Nowak about impossible theme park rides built as centrifugal experiments to maximize human intelligence. The architectural renderings are simply mind-blowing – and treated with a hilarious retro 80s filter. I can imagine another life for these designs in some immersive stereoscopic game.
I always have a soft spot in my heart for virtuosity that doesn’t take itself seriously. In the words of the disturbed narrator, “these machines provide total freedom, cutting you off from all connections to the world you live in: communication…responsibility…weight. Everything is on hold while you are being centrifuged.” Well said.
This is the new jellyfish and insect inspired design for the Polyangylene robots! They use a hexapod chassis base and an Arduino microcontroller. The glowy letters are shaped with el-wire, a beautiful, flexible material that gives you neon without the expensive glass-blowing part. The bots navigate their environment thanks to two ultrasonic sensors and communicate with participants through a microphone and flex sensors hidden in their feather/tentacle neck ruff. They communicate with each other through Xbee radio signals. These bots also have a fondness for synchronized dance moves…
Here are shots of the objects I have been gathering and painting white for the Polyangylene sculpture. Polyangylene, my dissertation project, is an interactive installation that consists of a sculpture of found objects onto which I project animations that transform these objects into colorful kinetic stages/props for mini-narratives that are also projected, as text, onto the sculpture. If you are interested in hearing more about Polyangylene, please explore the “bio+” section of the blog!
The origin of these objects is varied: found on the street, in my apartment, at swapmeets, dollar stores…
For some reason, I ended picking up a lot of old toys. Perhaps because toys connote triviality, ubiquity and ordinariness (key qualities in the objects I was looking for) while escaping the type of fixed meaning that functional objects tend to be pigeonholed with. Toys also tend to have pretty weird and interesting shapes. Phones, laptops, printers and monitors also found their way in because they have become, as much as cleaning brushes and cheap ornaments, the material backdrops of our lives. They also have screens – useful for creating this effect of a projection within a projection or story within story that I want to explore in the piece.
Here is the latest draft of the experience design/ concept for my dissertation project, Polyangylene – simultaneously a projection mapping sculpture, a robotic interface and an audiovisual book.
Projection mapping is an evolving artform that so far has been mostly an insider phenomenon within the VJing and electronic festival scene, in spite of roots in the longstanding medium of theatrical design and the growing number of competitions and conferences that are dedicated to it (one the most prestigious being the annual Mapping Festival in Geneva). It is frequently paired with DJ acts or used as a promotional gimmick for slick ad campaigns. The medium achieves aesthetic effects, however, whose innovation and significance have not yet been adequately critically adressed. What is the future of projection mapping’s cultural impact? With its knack for transforming irregular surfaces into surreal architectures, it speaks to a new vision of urbanism and the city, as a polymorphous and playful space justified by its spectacular ambiance as much as by its functional value. If we imagine a daily life framed by these dynamic monumental sculptures, what different kinds of cognitive and emotional sensibilities will we see emerging?
Tony Oursler is a contemporary example of the type of technologist-entertainers art historian Barbara Stafford calls “technomancers”, scientifically informed thaumaturges that use digital effects to produce heightened sensorial experiences that bring the visitor to the brink of the spiritually bizarre. A wonderland of spectral apparitions, Oursler’s work is where garden meets cutting edge projection trickery, using sculpture as an animated surface, thrusting dimensional color in the dark space of the gallery. Under the guise of avant garde multimedia, eminently contemporary, art, Oursler’s work most closely resembles the 18th century phantasmagoria shows of Jean-Gaspard Robertson, who awed post-Revolutionary Paris with his elaborate magic lantern technology, projecting the wispy ghosts of guillotined aristocrats onto mirrors and smoke in the ruins of a convent, showcased by a performance that incorporated newly discovered electrical effects and a “magical” ritual inspired by the ancient Eleusinian Mysteries. Oursler’s installations are less interactive, but demonstrate the same fascination with the spectral transformation and deformation of the human form: bubble heads with giant eyes and mouth, decapitated talking heads, heads wreathed in vapours, flickering lights.
via Laughing Squid : “Czech pranksters converted a massive rotating billboard into a three person merry-go-round (video). The prank was filmed by Vladimir Turner, and bravely undertaken by Vojtech Fröhlich, Ondrej Mlady, and Jan Simanek (making-of video).”
Mr. Cartoon’s delicious “Ice-Cream Truck” installation at the Los Angeles MOCA “Art in the Streets” exhibit is a paean to L.A. lowrider culture and the city’s cult of hedonism and entertainment. This exultant spectacle is proudly entrenched in the anti-pristine context of LA.’s mythically degraded urbanism. Mr. Cartoon’s revamped, tricked-out symbology is intoxicating: clown-faced, trench-coated policemen, the billowing, whirling orange smog that evokes ice-cream soda foam, the lowriding cadillacs morphing into dripping banana splits with pin-up bunny-face girls lounging in the back seats, and, most syrupy-caustic of all, the “illegal alien”, a sombrero-ed, mustachoed little green man on a popsicle stick. The truck is decked out with colorful video on lowrider culture and shown in a shallow pool of candy. Rarely has the city’s (or pop culture’s, for that matter) heady cocktail of subculture, politics, and flashy style found such viscerally pleasurable and yet mordant expression in Mr.Cartoon’s graffiti poem of sex, pollution, sugar and violence.
Beijing’s Aquatic Center constructed for the 2008 Olympics, aptly nicknamed the “Water Cube”, is a neo-Baroque folly whose skin consists of inflatable PVC bubbles wired with LEDs. As this video attests, the Water Cube emerges from the cityscape as a glowing, perpetually morphing mirage, casually radiating wonder amidst the more ordinary architecture of streetlights, trees, and apartment buildings. It is a hybrid entity that is both media and urban object – a 3 dimensional LED wall transformed into a building, or a gigantic inflatable light art installation put to public use. The Water Cube also participates in a neon aesthetic that has transformed the nighttime urban landscape from Vegas to Burning Man, to Wong Kar Wai’s movies, returning us to the industrial fascination for artificial lighting, recalling the phantasmagoria of the Electricity Pavillion at the 1900 World Fair. To what future avatar of the city does the Water Cube point to? The city as a topography of dimensional live, reactive, interactive wallpaper? An erasure of shape, the evaporation of mass into glittering, diaphanous texture? What is life in the Water Cube – a dream, a journey into hallucinatory spaces, a fairy tale, a series of sensorial electrocutions, a diversion, a hypnotic well?
Built with WebGL and HTML 5, this interactive animation allows users to create their own 3D objects and landscapes – which the system refers to as “dreams” – to add to the world of the animation. The player/viewer/modeler can also explore different poetic realms in the wake of exploding pixelated flowering animals. Part virtual painting, part modeling software, part music video, and part hallucinatory Second Life experience, Rome, much like Mindcraft, problematizes interactivity, fusing work, play, and poetry in a single experience.
In the vein of (immobile) light and space artists from earlier decades such as Dan Flavin or Robert Irwin, Licht makes sculpture from light and shadow. One can imagine an interactive variant where the play of bright, dim and dark is crowd-sourced by an online community, or algorithmically indexed to sensor information measuring the trajectories or body data of the visitors. Or offering a counterpoint to the natural time outside. In any case, presenting new expressive possibilities for data visualization.
The SOUND club in Phuket, Thailand, features architecture that brings a literal meaning to the term immersive. With nothing but round angles, pod-like seating arrangements, curvy corridors and dreamy, shiny, deep blue surfaces, the club recreates a surreal aquarium atmosphere. One can only imagine the synesthetic possibilities if a DJ were to play minimal dubstep, ambient, or deep house. Club architecture is one of many sites of themed entertainment / art environments where the affective potentialities of space are being experimented with and explored. The hybrid nature of clubs as venues for both social and artistic enjoyment – the two functions brought together in a sensual, hedonistic spirit that transforms both the experience of the art and the experience of others – makes them fascinating grounds for architectural experimentation, bringing us back to a Vidler-like (The Architectural Uncanny) notion of architecture as the design of different kinds of in-habiting, of being in space.
Me posing in front of the set I designed for a viral video to promote Fox’s “Rise of Planet of the Apes”, coming out in August, directed by fellow USC Cinema student Thenmozhi Soundararajan. I created some scientific animations and projected them on three layers of scrims, to produce a 3D effect without the stereo. The whole thing is supposed to represent a TED talk from the future. The melty shape to the left is a brain. Awesomely, the fabric we used – voile – added a shimmery grain to what is otherwise an ordinary digital-looking 3D model…
take out your anaglyph glasses to view this in its full stereoscopic glory!
I did the art and sound for the game Gravity Cubes, with Matt Morris and Jason Mathias. Ours is the eerie world of semi-transparent cubes in which the gravity switches on the player every 30s. The game was realized in Unity and is the result of experimenting with what constitutes a compelling 3D space – it turns out transparency and reflections are particularly evocative in stereo, as the viewer receives a rich impression of the multiple layers of objects positioned at different depths.
It started with making the soundtrack for a 3D game. And now I have it edited to a bird video I found on youtube…