Authors: Ninad Jog and Claudio Esperanca
Virtual Reality can be used either as a novel medium to create
interactive and surrealistic art forms or as an instrument
that takes the user on a guided tour of existing conventional
art. Surrealist artists benefit most from it.
As a novel medium, it has limitless creative potential bacause
every shape, space, sound and time can be bent as the user wishes.
Just as multimedia heralds the mixing of different media on a
computer screen, virtual reality art proclaims an integration of
hitherto disparate art forms like paintings, music and moving
pictures. Since virtual reality permits scenarios that violate
physical laws, its art will let users experience fantasies
that have been the stuff of science fiction to date.
Being a nascent technology, virtual reality art is still under
the control of technologists rather than artists - a situation
that will change as the technology matures. In the non-virtual
reality world, scientific data visualization has already
established a niche as an art form in its own right, and
virtual reality promises to take it further. Walking on the
surface of Mars (recreated as a virtual environment on earth)
will be both a scientific endevaour and an artistic experience.
Virtual art is at once a technology, a medium and a concept.
The German philosopher Schopenhauer opines that great art has
the power to pull its viewer from the real world and become
a part of the art. Virtual reality makes it all the much easier
to achieve this objective by doing away with the traditional
chasm between the passive viewer and the art object.
A cauldron for integrating painting, film, sculpture and
literature with the performing arts like music and theater.
A meta-medium that simultaneously encompasses myraid styles -
surrealist, cubist, revivalist, religious and postmodern.
By its nature, it is an experience in which art viewers can
co-create their experiences.
Several works of virtual art have been created - here are some
At a future date, emotions that are considered intangible like
love, hate and jealousy can be quantified by shapes and sizes
that float into the virtual world. Other psychedelic scenes
like hearing colors or seeing sounds, which are experienced by
taking drugs like LSD and marijuana too can be experienced.
A virtual theater with two participants in a kabuki play see
their own representations on the screen as graphical images.
By selecting different poetry associated with the play, they
can select different endings.
The Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE) at the University
of Illinios at Urbana-Champaign has a Fractal Explorer application
that enables participants to explore three-dimensional fractals
and their chaotic attractors by moving around them, changing
their shapes and colors and displaying them with different
graphical primitives (for example, triangles and squares).
Fractals are mathematical representations of repititive
elements of compound events or objects. Viewers can wave a wand
to rotate the fractal and view other sides of it or alter it
completely by changing the attractors it was built on (DeFanti 1993).
Using Sense8's VR tools, artist Robert McFadden has created a
piece called 'Picture Yourself In Fiction' - a vast empty box with
no top or bottom in which the inner and outer panels of a floating
cube are covered with scanned photographs of the artist's
body. As the participant passes near the panels, digitized samples
of his poetry are triggered and audibly played. Space itself
distorts and loops back on the participant as they move about.
Another example of virtual art is the creation of Piet Mondrian
titled 'Composition With Lime', which appears as a conventional
2-D painting, but falls apart and mutuates into a 3-D sculpture
when the participant flies around it.
There are lots of possibilities - this era is just at the dawn.
References and Suggested Readings:
[PIMENTEL 93] Pimentel, Ken and Teixeira, Kevin, "Virtual Reality,
Through The New Looking Glass", intel, Windcrest, McGraw Hill, 1993
[DeFANTI 93] DeFanti, Sandin and Cruz-Neira, "A 'room' with a 'view',
IEEE Spectrum, October 1993, pp. 30-33
Internet: Newsgroup sci.virtual-worlds' Frequently Asked Questions
Human Interface Technology Laboratory