Reality Is Only Screen Deep: explore 3D art in a virtual world

Reality Is Only Screen Deep: explore 3D art in a virtual world

Digital artists are taking steps into a new virtual reality at FuturePlay's Immersive Gallery, thanks to Google's Tilt Brush

Virtual reality has enjoyed a boom over the last few years thanks to exponential improvements in home-computing power and the launch of (relatively) affordable devices such as the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR. While most virtual reality projects are aimed at the gaming market, some pioneers are working hard to expand its potential in more original areas. Daniel Burke-Ward and Nikita Wolfe Murray, founders of Edinburgh-based digital art collective Reality Is Only Screen Deep, are interested in using VR to explore interactive artworks.

For their Immersive Gallery exhibition at FuturePlay, Burke-Ward and Wolfe Murray have persuaded two digital artists – Handiedan and Dustin Lewis (aka Mr Clandestine) – to use a Google software application called Tilt Brush in conjunction with the HTC Vive hardware to create two interactive works. Artists are able to use the equipment (in conjunction with a pair of handheld controllers), to digitally 'paint' in 3D space an area the size of a small room: multiple areas can be painted and linked together using a 'teleportation' feature.

Under supervision by Burke-Ward and Wolfe Murray, visitors to the exhibition will wear VR headsets to explore the artworks in four dimensions; as well as being able to walk around and fully examine them from all angles, the installations will change over the course of each 25-minute session. It's a unique way to explore digital art.

'The two pieces are very, very different,' explains Burke-Ward. 'Mr Clandestine's piece, "Queen Alala", is his imagining of an African goddess of some description. It's a temple of worship and audio reactive: he designed the piece to be placed in combination with audio, and the brush strokes vibrate in tune with the music. Handiedan is primarily a collage artist who cuts up photos and clippings from magazines or draws them herself and stitches them together. Her piece, "Handria", is a crazy creation which blends Tilt Brush's strokes with the ability to import images and models into that world. You can spend a full 20 minutes in her piece and still not have explored every little nook and cranny.'

Budding artists will also be encouraged to create their own masterpieces using the equipment, a process that's surprisingly easy to grasp. Burke-Ward explains his ambition of creating a three-dimensional, collaborative tapestry over the exhibition's three-and-a-half-week run. 'In the first slot of the day someone will work on the piece and then in the second slot they can take that world where they wish. At the end we'll have a new piece that's been sort of crowdsourced. We'll be guiding people through the process and then exhibit it on a media-sharing platform so that everyone can see photos and videos. But if someone wants to make a world on their own then we'll be sure to email them the files.'

Although the high cost of virtual reality keeps it out of reach for most people, Burke-Ward is confident that it has an exciting future. 'We believe that this is a huge medium,' he says. 'There is huge potential for creating new worlds here; I believe this will play a huge part in the future of gaming, web navigation and the capacity for architects – and artists in general – to completely reimagine how they see the world. It might take a while before it comes to fruition and everyone can see it, but this is definitely the direction in which the world is heading.'

FuturePlay Immersive Gallery, Assembly Rooms, George Street, 5–26 Aug, every half-hour from 11am–7.30pm (not 1.30pm, 5pm), £12 (£10). Previews 3 Aug (from 2pm)
& 4 Aug (from 11am), £6 (£5).

FuturePlay Immersive Gallery: Powered by Google Tilt Brush

FuturePlay Festival Imagine stepping into a canvas and exploring a visual world in 3D. Reality is Only Screen Deep, an Edinburgh-based digital art collective, presents breathtaking universes in virtual reality. Spend your time exploring the artwork or creating your own. Immerse yourself in art! Sessions run half-hourly…

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