This may only be post number 2, but as can probably be guessed, there’s been a bit of a backlog in the pipeline that I’ve been hoping to share. Mostly to do with inspiration, process and general happenings towards the end of this MA.
It would be wrong not to mention Rodin’s Gates of Hell. I distinctly remember standing under a replica of the door outside the Royal Academy of Arts 10 years ago. There was a retrospective exploring the range of his works.
The Gates are particularly interesting in his body of work as it includes a number of his most well known works including The Thinker and The Kiss. The sheer talent and exceptional skill shown in this sculpture is breathtaking. It is a reminder of Greek, Roman and Renaissance sculptors, and plays on the idealism drama and romanticism of Dante’s Inferno.
I’ve bought this up not just because its a door, and I made a door (or a door-frame / extended fireplace found in a skip), but because of the impact it had on me 10 years ago. Standing in front of such a disproportionate object with endless intricacies has had an effect on me. I’ve felt the same way in front of a number of classical, (or classically inspired) sculptures. It is both the sense of realism, tradition and brute labour that attract me. Then, last but not least, there is the sobering story of the work. Dante’s Inferno, the first book of his Divine Comedy. Rodin meticulously visualises the circles of hell, and places, The Thinker at the helm, looking down on it all. Historians have thought that Rodin meant for this to be Dante himself.
Perhaps I should have begun here, (appears less sinister, or then again, maybe we like happier endings.) We can’t talk about Rodin’s Gates of Hell without considering its key inspiration.
Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise.
This piece was created considerably earlier and in fact Rodin’s door was a direct response to it. The door’s name was coined by Michelangelo. After he saw the door, the name seemed to stick. As these are the doors to Florence’s baptistery of San Giovanni, each panel represents a different biblical tale.
These are the East Doors of the building. On the North side is a door made by Fillippo Brunelleschi who is accredited to have produced the first sculptural panels with linear perspective. Perspective became the rage across artists and thinkers in the 14th and 15th centuries. It began a new way of seeing, and capturing everyday life. No longer were altars and panel paintings fixed to 2 dimensions. The use of linear perspective is clearly seen in a number of Ghiberti’s panels, in fact, the third panel down on the right would have been particularly difficult. He manages to show a circular building in perspective.
Anyway, again, its another set of doors, and again, I have a distinct memory of being mesmerised as I stood in front of it 8 years ago. Perhaps there’s a link between my experience as a viewer and my interest in creating a door of my own, perhaps not, but these overwhelming and elaborate doors are common place in buildings of worship. As you step through them, there is an immediate impact of surrounding, spirituality and serenity. Then again, just like my door, you can’t walk through either of these Gates. Perhaps there’s meaning in there as well.
Thought I’d do a quick post on the rendering process going into my VR piece. I’ve confirmed today that I’ll be displaying the piece on a Samsung Gear headset, which is considerably better than my iPhone 5. (Bigger screen, better resolution.)
The rendering has been a nightmare. I’ve learnt more about the process of rendering in the past month than I’d ever thought I’d know. I’ve gone through render layers, passes, batch edits, shell scripts, render farms, network rendering… all in the space of a month. I’ve had to find quick and creative solutions to ensure that my piece will be viewable.
Re-creating my VR piece has been the biggest struggle over the last 3 months. I’d originally made the environment as a Unity game for an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive, however, due to not being able to get one for the show, I had to re-make the piece.
Early last week I managed to set up a number of farms to get the animation going:
From tomorrow onwards will be a similar story. I’m basically just running around with a memory stick looking for computers.
I’ll do a further post on the content of the VR piece and how I’ve found ways to get around the issues of equirectangular content creation.
I realised early last week that a wall was going to be necessary for the door. It was something I considered, but I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. With some sound advice from Ed, Jonathan and Jack I built a fake wall to give the doorway a little more belief, as well as more functionality. The lighting and circuitry can now be hidden behind the walls. Originally, I hoped to make it completely self-contained. This gives Ed and I more room to work with.
Ed began to install the circuit. After some time we managed to get the sensor working in the top of the door as hoped.
I’m entering the final finishes of the piece. I need to put everything together including the scrim and the print. Due to some issues with the scrim this week, I’ve re-thought how to display the work. Instead of attaching the scrim straight to the frame, I’m building a stretcher. The scrim will be stretched over the frame, and the adhesive vinyl print will be fixed to the pack of the scrim. This will allow the lights to give the desired effect through the scrim.
I’ve attached some images below:
How things can change! I was made aware by a few people who had tried the early tests of my VR piece that the environment wasn’t necessarily a Church to them. The comparison given was the U.S. Capitol building.
I spent a considerable time focussing on a religious setting after the influence my research paper had had on my practice. From the beginning I focused on the Internet as a physical space and the architecture within it. Hearing the users experience made me feel that the environment is comparable to both a political and religious setting, which, given the nature of the internet, I didn’t dislike. Though, admittedly it wasn’t intended.
I’ve kept what was originally designed as a church / chapel going against what I’d decided a while ago.
I’ve reflected on the Internet as a comparable institute to religion and still believe that its use and ability creates a similar social structure based on live information. For example, stories of discrimination, abuse, or any injustice are shared and commented on. These are seen and read by tens of thousands, creating a collective social view on that injustice. The main issue with this idea is that internet communities are more secluded than I’d originally thought. The stories of injustice I see on my Facebook timeline are personalised to the community I’m a part of. If I lived elsewhere, in another community, it is a different story. (Of course this is a simple and obvious reflection that can be seen in any community online or offline).
This couldn’t have been made more obvious by Brexit. Since Friday, Facebook (and most other social media) has been set alight with emotion both positive and negative. Some of the posts have been horrendous, some very enlightening, however, the best one I read was a friend from Nottingham uni. He wrote:
“……and proof that my newsfeed is a terrible measure of public opinion”
I don’t want to digress to Brexit, but this comment gives the perfect insight into internet communities.
Back to the religious comparison. This idea has made me realise that although the spread of information allows for quick solidarity and reaction to significant events. It is also tailored to you as an individual and therefore doesn’t give you the insight of all points on the spectrum. I’ve always felt that the best way to understand a story or an idea is to read from both ends of the argument. This is in some way lost by the monetization of the net, and its focus on your individual experience (This is mostly true for social medias).
I’ve gone slightly off topic but the idea of Gateway is to highlight the importance of the viewer’s input.
I will post some more recent examples of the VR experience I’m building in due course.
I started to build the door in late February / Early March but quickly realised a significant issue…. How was I going to get it into the exhibition space.. It was becoming too heavy to pick up and I hadn’t extended the legs.. I held off from building it until I had a plan.
After speaking with Jonathan and others about the possibilities, it seemed I was making a bigger issue out of it that it turned out to be. What was needed was some ruthless determination and hard graft. I took the whole door down for my open studios. It had been standing incomplete for almost 4 months! The best outcome of this was testing its ability to stand freely. Or at least that’s a good way of finding reason from inactivity.
I managed to get everything transported to Wilson Road on the 21st June. Luckily the BAs didn’t end up using the basement space, so I was free to work in there. I was working quickly, but not too quickly as to rush it. I’ve been slightly anxious about whether or not it would work. I still need to get on with it tomorrow, potentially to install a fake wall and screw brackets into the door to ensure its straight and doesn’t fall on any of the visitors!
(That’s another health and safety issue to add to the list. Fear of being electrocuted, crushed, suffering motion sickness and / or an epileptic fit…. Hopefully someone likes the work (and none of the above happen):(
BUT overall I’m happy with the outcome as I successfully turned a fireplace into a door.
Below are some photos of the build.
I had my tutorial with Jonathan on Friday. We spoke about the logistics for the final show and the best way to present my final piece. Although I’ve had some breakthroughs in producing VR content in Unity and Blender, I’m still not entirely sure which would be best for the show. On one side, if I can get my hands on an Oculus or Vive, a PC based Unity build would make it possible for the viewer to explore the environment as they wish. However its proving difficult to get my hands on one for the final show, so I’ll have to consider a rendered equi-rectangular film to be shown on a google cardboard. (I could explore simplifying the Unity build to allow it to be app based, but it wouldn’t have the same impact as the PC version). It’ll most likely have to be a rendered film. There are benefits to both options, however conceptually and aesthetically it’d be better for the viewer to have full control of their movement.
Thinking through the presentation for VR in the gallery, there’s the important question of user experience. I’m apprehensive about the funfair/arcade-style queueing that I’ve seen at a number of exhibitions, but there’s nothing I can do about it. The emergence of the technology makes it currently very attractive to try no matter the context. This fact gives an added pressure to the outcome. Realistically, during the private view, I’ll have to be organised and if I were able to use the open world version of the work I’d have to restrict the time of each viewer’s experience depending on the interest. This can be done a number of ways though I’ve been considering a script that cancels all colliders after a certain period of time, forcing the FirstPerson to fall through the structures, ending the simulation. However, again, this is for the PC version of the work.
The other option is a 5/6 minute fixed animation on a loop. The biggest pro for this option is the quality of the final render and the fact that the headset will be portable (potentially multiple headsets). The biggest problem would be the battery life of the phones.
As for the physical door, I’m going to have to go at it with a Jigsaw and re-arrange it at Wilson Road. My other option was to try to borrow a horse box….
I’m currently working on my Symposium 2. The Research Paper settled my conceptual interests in the freedoms and restrictions of religion/spirituality and the internet. Within this I approached and considered addiction, identity, disembodiment and propaganda within this question. My interest in the relationship between user and device has been inspired by Nam June Paik’s work, which has evolved rapidly since studying his work in more detail for the paper. This time last year, we began to form our research questions, and at the time I didn’t expect it to have had such an impact on my overall practice. It has allowed me to consider the concepts in a purely academic context. ‘The Medium is the Message’, (Marshall McLuhan), and Virilio’s ‘Information Bomb’ have been important texts during this process.
In many ways, my concept hasn’t changed for the last 6 or 7 months. The idea of a Gateway, a device as access to an extension of physical space and identity. My interim exhibit ‘Congregation’ was also an attempt at exploring this idea. Aesthetically, I’ve tried to develop ideas from early in the MA such as trying to represent to multiple identities one holds online and the physical, 3-dimensional make-up of everyday information.
As i’m approaching the final weeks of the MA, I’m happy to be in a position where there are aesthetic and conceptual choices that can be made rather than rushing to finish. Though, I’m aware that its looking less likely I’ll be able to secure a headset for the final show, which makes the Unity experience I’ve been developing somewhat frustrating / partially obsolete. Depending on what happens with the headset, there may still be an 11th hour panic!! Mainly the issue of organising and rendering the film.
I’m still making changes to the work, and having been through a number of versions, in recent days, I can see significant changes happening before the final exhibition version.