To my friend Virginie Pronovost who will understand my weird psychosis for surrealist art (or psychotic art), and in this case, for the surrealist technology I am about to present…
Introductory reflexions on virtual reality
The psychotic surrealist aspects of the human eye and brain
I may have always been attracted to art, some fields of science have also been fascinating me, and I find extremely innovative the act of mixing art and science together to create new forms of art. I fully support that! Without entering the complex world of physics, chemistry, or mathematics, it is natural sciences and astronomy that intrigue me the most, from the widest to the smallest, and from the smallest to the widest, for how did the world start anyway? It is the fact that these fields of science do try to bring some answers to the existential questions about life that arouses my curiosity, even if I never wanted to become a scientist. Today, I would like to talk to you about a fairly recent technology: virtual reality. Yes, I know I only want to live in the past, but I still find myself in awe before some technological innovations of my era.
To begin with, here are two pictures that prove that the human eye and brain are fascinating enough without any technological device is needed to trick our perception. Play gently with your eyes, and you will see three unique things on each one of these pictures! Three, not two. Look closely.
Crushed heart with the convergent vision, three-dimensional heart with the parallel vision
Perfect three-dimensional yellow flower in the right distance
Each lived experience is a unique testimony, and the experience of virtual reality is clearly one of them. It is mine I am talking about here. If you wish to get precise information on this fascinating technology from the 21st century, I invite you to do some research that will certainly make you want to try it…!
I had already experienced three-dimensional cinema, but as far as I can remember, my first contact with virtual reality took place on April 4th 2018, during one of the last classes of one of my academic courses for the Film Studies Major at Concordia University. Our professor had invited a virtual reality specialist to lecture the class inside a special room with a moving chair in the middle, and a screen. The person who is selected to try the technological device has to put it in front of the eyes, and fix it behind the head. The person then immediately enters the art piece thanks to a 360-degree technology that imitates a reel physical space. The person thus becomes physically (or almost) a part of the art piece as himself or herself. The screen allows the other students in the room to see exactly what the person sees within the device, but as a two-dimensional film.
I was so impressed by this technology (from a purely technological point of view at first before an affective one) that I decided to regularly visit the Phi Centre, which is specialized in the exhibition and promotion of art under various forms, with a special interest in virtual reality. I also had the chance to see more virtual reality films at the 23rd edition of the Fantasia festival!
My first impression of this technology was its exceptional immersive aspect in terms of space and head mobility! I insist on the terms space and head mobility, because all art pieces are immersive in their own way, but virtual reality is different in the sense that it aims directly at the spectator’s mobility. My impressions are thus overall positive, though to me, there are certain rules one has to follow to enjoy the experience to the fullest…
After I had the chance to view several virtual reality films, including horror ones, I was so enthusiastic that one of my first interrogations was: How come there are only shorts in virtual reality and not features? I quickly understood why… Virtual reality pushes the spectator to be active and act as he would act in real life, for if he stays passive, the immersive aspect of the technology can be reduced. He must participate to the film with movement… In most reality virtual films I have experienced (except for one in particular that I will gladly talk about in another blog entry), the sitting position is enough to enjoy the film, but there is a reason why the spectator is placed on a moving chair. The head and body mobility is what makes all the difference! But is it really virtual reality? I would rather call it virtual surrealism.
I believe in fate, except for when I write.
Head image: PIRO4D on Pixabay
First stereogram: « Qu’est-ce qu’un stéréogramme? « Magique Œil Stéréogramme Quiz » l’appli qui nous fait loucher… on Girleek (Jérémy Ruiz, March 7th 2012)
Second stereogram: Wiktionary