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A reflective journal of my practice, process, and thoughts.

Posts tagged VR
Low Residency

The low residency last month was a wonderfully enriching experience in a number of ways, and prepared me for moving forward in my project contextually and practically. Meeting everyone in person felt very seamless, and I think it is a strength of the course format that after having only communicated online to that point, as a group we are close in being knowledgable of the rhythms of each of our concerns and processes.

I felt this strongly in the group tutorial session on day 2. Our group was led by the MA Designer Maker course leader Maiko Tsutsumi, and I shared my work with Michelle, Chris, Lyu, and Omer (IG @omerder) from the Designer Maker course, who showed us around his ‘work in progress’ show installation - something which I think we were all very grateful for. There is a tenderness to Omer’s use of materials in his sculptural work - an echo of the inner subjects which reveal themselves on closer inspection - relationships between gender, place and expectation, identity and geological activity. I found the installation cohesive and the work itself seductive, and this has since made me pause to think more about exhibition and presentation of my project and how that might work. The gallery visits, tutorials and workshops on 3D printing and Virtual Reality work, have pushed those considerations forward as discussed within my Mid-Point Review material and evaluation in my last blog post.


Gillian and George in the 3D workshop guided me through the practical refinement of the extruded model from my primary school achievement binder scans I’d been struggling with in Fusion, and printed a sample of the model for me which demonstrated how the properties of what I had produced in Fusion would result in a brittle, spiky surface. Part way through the print, the sample looked much closer to what I had hoped for, with a more ‘readable’ topography than the finished piece in which the detail had been pulled out from the base of the mesh to such an extent that it resembled more of a forest, which I felt overshadowed the subject and lost clarity. George shared an alternative method of producing height maps in Blender which seemed much more appropriate than Fusion - much faster and easier to configure, and more intuitive to me, and he explained to me how I could use a plane to cut through and achieve a surface that did not taper into the tall spines that the original produced.

Our visit to areByte gallery fed into the VR workshop I attended, led by Fine Art Digital alumni Alejandro Escobar, and both experiences were thoroughly constructive and informative. Alejandro showed us how to animate scenes and export as 360 video in Blender, as well as explaining the context of contemporary VR work in art-making, and an introduction to the vast array of technical considerations or variables that related processes involve. Both the workshop and the ‘RE-FIGURE-GROUND’ show at areByte were incredibly engaging, (I found Lorna Mills animated GIF work and Eva Papamargariti’s sequencing of CGI, text components and live-action film especially compelling) and, building on the tutorials I had with Gillian and George, the week coalesced to a great learning experience in which the vitality of the media and processes at the base of interdisciplinary VR, CGI, simulation, and print gripped my attention and gave me many ideas. These have informed the second version of my Project Proposal.

Installation shots credit: Christopher MacInnes

Yellowhirlaway, Lorna Mills. 4-channel GIF animation, 2017.

But for now all i can promise is that things will become weirder (Trailer) - Eva Papamargariti

The stream of human knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality. The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter. We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail it as the creator and governor of this realm.
— Sir James Jeans (1930)

Alejandro Escobar, 2018


Thanks to Danni (thank you again!) I had the opportunity to attend a performance of WHIST at the Watermans Arts Centre, which again was so motivating and tied into the same considerations and concerns. One of the most immediately clear benefits of attending Alejandro’s workshop was to be able to interpret and analyse WHIST in the context of it’s design and also functionality as a VR piece, and to be able to apply questioning which has begun to inform ideas for ways forward in my own project. The problems I experienced with the object identification element (the Augmented Reality component) during the performance hindered the immersive continuity of the narrative, and this, while being maybe my only substantial criticism of the piece, which was otherwise wildly compelling and pretty much unlike anything I’ve experienced before, did make me think about applying focus and a thorough process to ideas that might run the risk of being interpreted as over-reaching or unintentionally disparate. This specifically is something which I try to be mindful of as I map out what I referred to as the kind of ‘borderless geography’ of the narrative I’m developing. Certain pieces in the areByte exhibition also highlighted the technology not ‘being quite there yet’ in different ways - a few of us actually hit the gallery wall in the corner where Claudia Hart’s VR stage piece was shown as we attempted to physically navigate her maze of capitalist symbolism wearing the headset, and the joystick seemed to over-complicate the accessibility of the piece. Alejandro’s workshop generated a lot of very valuable questioning and discussion on issues from health and safety considerations to simply utilising the technology you have to it’s most effective potential rather than pushing for something that weakens an idea. I intend to begin forming sequences of animated scenes to work into larger pieces, and the experiences of the low residency week will certainly help guide me in making informed practical decisions.

Mid-Point Review


The feedback I received during the crit session has already proved tremendously helpful and I’m grateful for everyone’s comments and insights - it’s so important to share work, and to ‘test’ it - is the work doing what you expected it to? This is one of the aspects I’m most enjoying about the course, being back in a shared environment with the framework in which that is an objective.

To a large extent and overall I feel as if the recurring themes throughout my crit align very strongly with my own feelings about where I am at right now, and some of the questions that would be constructive to consider. This is very encouraging.

The question of the extent to which my project is rooted in and weighted by personal history and identity, and how effective it might be in communicating something relatable on a wider scale is something I think is central for me to address, and it one of those continuous considerations that I am working to unravel. It was very valuable to hear how, for example, Betty read the project as being more concerned with a search for identity than an investigation into geography and change, and in response to this Ed said that he felt that identity was one of several subjects tied in together, being expressed through metaphor, and that the tricky part will be to communicate all of that in a way that each subject gives meaning to another. This is definitely a key objective for me now and something which I will focus on more as I work my way through the project - Aristotle describes what I am handling as a ‘phenomenal amount of data’ - and I do feel this. Identity is definitely a concern, and the way I have been approaching the project is from a point of this forming the basis, or the roots, of it and everything that follows or is overlaid or extruded from personal narrative, into something that I intend to speak more of our collective experiences in today’s geological context, and something that works outside of the confines of my own geography, or my home. More and more I am treating this project as something which is so multi-faceted that I do not, in one way, want to impose borders on it, but rather begin to focus in on one metaphor or ‘dimension’ at a time. I will be revisiting and reworking the globe-shaped project map, in order to begin working into it - the project - now, rather than reading around it. I hope to develop something compelling in that multi-faceted way, in which connections that at the moment feel like hints or confusions might emerge more thoroughly as the result of working on this for years to come.

Action Points / Development

Consider the potential of both writing, and verbal description, as a branch of methodology in the communicative behaviour of the project

Pav commented that he felt the quality of the spoken narrative in the video was more important and effective than the visual communication. This is one of a few comments that surprise me - it is intriguing and I am very eager to engage with this. I did not write a script for the video presentation. I made the video piece in a way that was possibly much less efficient than I could have, and I think that this is actually an example of my continuous approach and nature to labor over something, which often results in research dominating time I could be utilising more carefully in making. I developed the video in a very linear way, beginning to end, adding visuals and making mental notes for what I might say as I worked my way along the timeline, then made two sound recordings for the narration - a hiccupy and stumbling rough edit and then something a little better. However, I did greatly enjoy this and this is important actually in a couple of ways - I love writing and research and I have often gravitated towards those modes over visual communication. In this case, I spent much longer processing the visual work I had made and images I had collected along the way via the research than the text. This feedback is helpful also because it suggests to me that the text or the ‘non-visual’ research is at a point where I have something I can begin to articulate and make sense of in terms of a basic framework, so now I can really push forward with that framework more into visual/aural. Having said that, there is something about the spoken element which I, though I do not necessarily in any way enjoy listening to own my monotone drone, think might be worth pushing or at least reminding myself of as I work because it could inform part of the communicative behaviour of the project. Alexis provided a connection to the work of Stephen Jay Gould, explaining how “his essays sweep ideas together in classic form taking one through a disclosure of idea that eventually settles as a sedimentary bed in ones mind, creating a geology of thought”. In response to Alexis’ question, I have considered writing previously, and the feedback he has offered encourages me to revisit it in this context, and indeed how writing could form a dimension of the project in itself, in relation to the thread of historical constructs and reconstruction.

Explore the soundscape, and evaluate it’s potential relationship to the aesthetic of the project

For the Mid-Point Review video piece I wanted to record a very simple soundscape, and something that echoed the time-bound aspect in connection to the research; deep time, memory, life-span. I slowed down and amplified a recording I made of ice cubes cracking in warm water, and this together with one piano chord formed the basis of it. I did enjoy this, and I am thankful for the feedback I received as regards how the sound worked; Aristotle commented that it was significant in his reading of the project, and this seemed to be a shared interpretation amongst others in the group. The development of soundscapes in correlation to the environments that I am imagining each of those metaphorical dimensions within my project to ‘look’ like is definitely something I intend to pursue - I will continue experimentation, and I plan to make field recordings to enrich the process moving forward.

Continue to investigate: extrusion, depth maps, interaction

As I state in the video, testing and trialling methods and techniques of making the project immersive and experiential is a key objective of the project. Christopher suggested the concept of being able to navigate through the embossed landscapes in real-time, which certainly speaks to the thoughts I have regarding experimentation I plan to begin this week in connection to perceptions of the past. On the subject of the embossed landscapes, I’m grateful to Ed for pointing out that those I included in my presentation look very similar to satellite recordings of the breaking up of ice sheets in the Antarctic - this is a useful reference point. Kelda spoke about the way in which I’m currently switching between digital and physical and how that is intriguing and this is something which I have thought about quite a lot; generally I imagine this as actually being a comment within the work somewhere about the two, and about formats - I’m thinking back here a little bit to Daria Martin’s show at the Barbican which I discussed in my previous blog post, and also I am always quite mindful of, for example, the fluency of Joseph Beuys’ interdisciplinary process. I’m also very interested in Kelda’s reading that my work “has a gritty monotone approach a bit like a black and white documentary, which looks real but is a representation of the real.” Documentary is very important to me… there are a few very distinct qualities concerning direction, narrative, and truth (Werner Herzog’s pursuit of the ‘ecstatic truth’ comes to mind) which I have always been fascinated by in that field that deals with negotiating representations of the real - and persuasion. I’d like to pay some more attention to this. Dannii and Jonathan referred back to the concept of extrusion as a device which should be investigated further, and core samples as frozen records of previous events and environments, lifeforms, being literally pulled from within the earth, the question of how our behaviours will be defined in future samples - layers of plastics, the ‘unnatural’… These are certainly reflective of, and valuable extensions of, my thought process. All of the feedback I have received is beginning to inform my planning and direction, and the weight of the focus I give to certain questions that directly affect the experience of viewer.




The Museum as a Lens

Before the beginning of the Low Residency in London last Tuesday, I took a couple of days to visit some shows and also some museum collections, including the Rock Room at UCL, housed in the Kathleen Lonsdale Building, as well as revisiting the Natural History Museum, and exploring the somewhat haunting Horniman Museum. For a number of years museology has played a role in my practice, and most of my BA was dedicated to unravelling the properties of narrative and representation through display and curation of collections, with a broad focus on Natural History as a set of constructs. Beyond interrogating the construction of the communicative presentation in museum display, I have used cabinets, vitrines, labelling and other components as aesthetic connections to our expectations of the museum as a voice of authority or a storyteller, to invite questioning and inspection - I am aware however that museological commentary work is not only a well-established but a very saturated subject in making today, and I definitely burned myself out on this a little. Still, I remain fascinated by museological treatment of objects, visual cues (as clues, or triggers - the familiar and the uncanny) and the design properties from museum to museum still grip me in their isolation, from dusty old spaces to the hyper-sensational and polished. Over the past month or so I’ve been reconsidering the nature of the museum as a lens both for representation and inspection - as well as a set of aesthetic devices which I would like to revisit in my work; moving forward I am very interested in making my work much more immersive and experiential through applying different modes or lenses to my subject matter, in order to question the construction of a narrative or a mythology - more on this in posts to follow. My recent meeting with David Gelsthorpe at Manchester Museum really made me consider audience engagement from the perspective of the curator, and how strategies are applied in museum spaces to invite questioning about collective concerns in the present, and embed knowledge (David mentioned the notion of ‘facts in inverted commas’) in comparison to other types of space where expectations are different, for example in the gallery, or outdoors, or on our iPhones. It also made me think about materiality and value judgments. These things tied in to my induction into VR and 360 Video processing, and various aspects of work I saw during the low residency.

The Bendegó meteorite, one of the few artefacts remaining after a fire destroyed the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, in 2018.

The Bendegó meteorite, one of the few artefacts remaining after a fire destroyed the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, in 2018.

Shuntaro Tanikawa

A stone axe among others
Quiet on the far side of the glass

The constellations rotate,
Many of us perish,
Many of us are generated,
Over and over comets narrowly avoid collision,
Many dishes are smashed,
Eskimo dogs walk on the South Pole,
Great tombs are raised, east and west,
Collections of poems are dedicated
And quite recently
They split an atom,
And a president’s daughter sang a song…
Various things have even happened
Since then.

A stone axe among others
Lies quiet on the far side of the glass


A piece which utilises a number of different modes to build an experiential narrative similar to the way I am describing in this post, and an immediate influence on this line of thought is Derek Jarman Award winner Daria Martin’s ‘Tonight the World’ currently on show on the Barbican Centre. Through film, video-game style animation, objects and letters, Martin explores the 20,000 pages of her grandmother Susi Stiassni’s dream diaries, which were kept originally for the purposes of psychoanalysis. In video-game ‘play through’ projections, we explore a simulation of her grandmother’s childhood home in the former Czechoslovakia, which was seized by the Nazi’s after her family fled to the U.S. in 1938 (Stiassni only ever returned in her dreams). Walking through the villa we encounter domestic objects and ornaments, and drawers full of photographs - the piece stops to focus on these and scans them, providing information about their significance to the historical context of the diaries, the villa, the country, as if hitting a button on a joypad to select the item. Pages from the diary are pinned to a wall further along in the space, and a 3D model of a small robot toy which appears in the villa, and also the subsequent film piece as a kind of talisman which speaks of Czech writer Karel Capek and the first use of the word ‘robot’ to describe an artificial person in 1923, sits on a mantle in a space cut away from an exhibition panel against a backdrop which looks like a wall of crumbling clay. At the opposite end of the space, a 16mm anamorphic film presents five reconstructions of separate scenes from the diaries which focus on intrusion and anxiety, with allusions to occupation and exile (in one scene a young Stiassni is shrouded in blue twilight running from three young militarily dressed hunters through a forest - they catch up to her but freeze) - in this piece four different actresses play Stiassni interchangeably at four different ages. At every stage Stiassni seems equally to know or be aware of more than the people around her but also locked inside a mental space which she struggles to comprehend as the lucidity of the dream cracks and consciousness becomes blurred; in which time seems to unravel and we are witnesses to an increasing mental vulnerability, evocative in a way which questions the extents to which the traumas that maybe lay on the edge of our consciousness move us forward and shape us; the accumulative engine of the subconscious possibly has the power to envelop us.

In a number of ways this piece spoke to some of the questions I am exploring in my research - Sebald’s thoughts on trauma and fault lines seem exemplified in my reading of the work, and also the methods of sequencing and presenting source material in multiple formats which overlap, push and pull away from the core of the subject, but weave together to suggest a nonlinear narrative which concerns a shared history and collective memory through a microcosm of an individual lens over what it means to be in the present.