Lockdown Continued… (notice the calmer Title Case)

The VR world from the geranium project on simmer – www.simmer.io/@IanLatham/the-geranium-project – takes 8 minutes and 7 seconds to load.

The latest WebGL build on my own website – www.ian-latham.com/geranium/build – takes 11 minutes and 39 seconds to load.

I’ve spent hours trying to work out how to make the things load more quickly but everything I try seems to make little or no difference.

I participated in an online event for the Doncaster New Fringe art group, a kind of delayed open studio evening in which artists film their work and upload the videos to a website. This is the video I made Art Bomb Video for Doncaster New Fringe I found some old 3d models I made for sculptures over a number of years and built a VR environment for them, I then made an awful video of my studio and me explaining what I’d done in fluent gibberish and placed that video inside the VR world. I recorded that through the computer and there you go.

Other than that this week has been a lot of gardening, building a greenhouse, and the endless frustration of Unity!

greenhouse

My New Greenhouse

I finally got the WebGL build down to 6 minutes and 17 seconds! Or at least below 7 minutes over several tries, the load bar doesn’t work properly though.

LOCKDOWN CONTINUED:

When I’ve spent time in the studio in the last week I’ve spent it trying to get the model to laod as WebGL from Unity. I can make it work in the programme and it builds succesfully but it will not work from the web! I’m typing this while I’m trying it again. If it works this time it will be here www.ian-latham.com/geranium/build As I type it doesn’t look like it will!

Otherwise this week I’ve been gardening, the bottom of my garden looked like this on Monday 20th April.

Waste Ground

Waste ground at the bottom of the garden

And like this on Friday 24th April

Mini Allotment

Mini Allotment

This film shows the WebGL build in Unity.

Spent another couple of hours trying to get the WebGL of geranium to work, it does work, it just takes 9 minutes and 41 seconds to load www.ian-latham.com/geranium/build

LOCKDOWN BLOG POST – First of ?

START: 17/04/2020

After moving from my studio as detailed in my last post I’ve been unable to write anything. Perhaps incapable is a better word. Obviously the latest Grant application was abandoned and I’m left in a kind of limbo. Fortunately I don’t need the money to live, only to work effectively and make the appropriate investments – time, contacts, equipment, etc., – so I’m one of many who is just happy to be ok and creatively feeling a bit numb.

garden drawing 13/04/20

garden drawing 13/04/20

So I did a drawing, A1 size or thereabouts, in charcoal, pencil and watercolour (a couple of dabs of white). This one took about four hours on one of the fine days we’ve been having.

I’ve also been working on new models for the geranium project, rebuilding them so that they can be played on desktops or through browsers.

geranium project page with an embedded WebGL game

I’ve uploaded a fairly straight version to a site called ‘simmer.io’ there is a link on the page for the project. It takes up to two minutes to load and it doesn’t work on Safari, it also doesn’t allow you to look up or down for some reason and has an annoying walk speed and sound.

I’ve been resolving those issue though and hosting new attempts to sort this on my website. Here www.ian-latham.com/geranium/game

This one is just one garden at the moment and has no sound, but it loads quicker and allows you to look up etc., these are both controlled using the mouse to look and arrow keys, or wasd, to move around.

I’ll be updating this location as I try out new things and bring in more gardens.

A final thought. I’ve been reading a lot of ‘art’ stuff,

[…] I want to speak loudly for what art has always been — something done against the rules of advanced capitalism. Art isn’t about professionalism, efficiency, insurance, and safety; it’s about eccentricity, risk, resistance, and adaptation. Mike Egan, owner of the visionary Ramiken Gallery, writes to me, “Art will not survive as some dull thing, some social good that we must support out of consensual responsibility to the social good. Art will explode with the desires of the people to see action play out, with tears, screams, harmonies, and some death.” He goes on, “Watch what happens next. Galleries will go under — unless they survive. How to survive? Passion. Obsession. Desire.” Indeed, in this time of sheltering-in-place, he just moved his gallery to a decrepit building across from a garbage dump and told me he opened “a secret show.” I thought I felt the rumble of art’s old thunder when he wrote this to me. In this and other similar gestures, I imagine a new “First Days of an Art World.”

https://www.vulture.com/2020/04/how-the-coronavirus-will-transform-the-art-world.html

Jerry Saltz waxing lyrical about the effect of Covid 19 on the “Art World”, April 2nd 2020, notes that a large number of galleries have reserves that will last a month or two at most. In the UK commentators are noting that the closure of the gallery closes the gallery shop which for many is a major income stream. ACE has launched an emergency funding scheme that seeks to mitigate the disaster that has hit a majority of those self describing as artists. Friends of mine are working to maintain connections and bolster the support networks that run alongside practice for a good number of creatives. The thing for me is that a lot of this points up the commodification of ‘art’ and speaks to a constituency that judges artworks according to their social value. The ACE parameters are that you earned more than 50% of your income from funding streams (not necessarily theirs) and can demonstrate this loss of income. It’s either this or hopeless idealism it seems. I’m interested to see what remains after COVID-19, but also extremely nervous.

Studio Strike (Two weeks to leave)

Upstairs Studio Cleared

Upstairs Studio Cleared

The upstairs of the shop is now cleaner and emptier than when I moved in.

I’ll be leaving my studio next Wednesday, no prospect of a new one yet, everywhere is shutting up shop, and I’m hopeful my van driver will honour the contract. We live in interesting times.

Shop ready to empty

Shop ready to empty

So all of this is now here…

Stacked Garage

Stacked Garage

Apart from the bits that are here…

Attic Studio

Attic Studio

Ready to work in isolation!

For the sake of future reference ACE effectively canceled all the National Lottery Project Funding currently pending in order to create a support system for freelancers who are seriously compromised by the current closure of everywhere. So all my plans are on hold along with everyone else’s. What I’ve decided to work on now is a Web GL version of the VR world and see what I can do to finesse it.

Studio Strike (four weeks to leave)

I’ve got three weeks to pack up and leave the studio and, as these things do, it’s come at a time when there are other things to do. I’m losing two days for the Future Now conference in York (C-19 permitting) and two days with Barnsley College to help out and begin the NHS maquettes. I’ve also got to find a new place and I’m still working on developing new ideas and refining the geranium VR. This obviously calls for a diary, even if only because it will keep me focused on the things I need to do.

So the first thing is to take the studio apart and pack everything while I look for more space. The shop now looks like this…

One Days Tidying

One Days Tidying – Monday 9th March

I think I can pack everything up by the middle of next week, I’m in York on Thursday and Friday. On Monday I sent some emails, took down the exhibition and the walls for the workshop downstairs, and added more sounds and animations to the VR for geranium.

geranium_march_2020_medium from Ian Latham on Vimeo.

Also this morning, Tuesday, I got the acknowledgement of my next funding application to ACE, so I will find out if I’m successful at the same time as I give the keys back to Axisweb.

Wednesday Tidying

Installation Dismantled – Wednesday 11th March

Wednesday I took down the installation and started to disassemble the panels. I also took the opportunity to film the installation without a roof.

The first chance to see it with decent light.

Friday I finished the panels and started to pile everything up downstairs ready to move. Another day should see it done.

Upstairs Tidying

Installation Fully dismantled – Friday 13th March

Downstairs Friday

Downstairs Tidying – Friday 13th March

The Geranium Project (R&D) 34

This last week has been spent planning next steps and finessing parts of the VR. The video run through is below.

I had a few visitors, only one set I didn’t invite directly, who were uniformly enthusiastic about the work. I had another today who took the number who have tried the VR to 50. People remain as enthusiastic about the installation as they do about the VR.

Next steps are to make the physical presence more robust so that it can be moved for exhibition and get the piece out to new locations. All of this is of course subject to funding. The final report can be seen here http://www.ian-latham.com/geranium.html

 

The Geranium Project (R&D) 33

The Geranium Project (R&D) – Philosophy

A couple of weeks ago I was challenged to come up with a ‘philosophy’ for my work, an accounting of, or for, its place in the art world. Establishing this philosophy will make it easier for me to develop the work and easier for the work to be marketed (for want of a better word). I also understand that I need to try to place myself in the canon in order to help direct the work to the right curators, competitions and galleries. So this is an attempt to find my location.

Space in the imaginary of the Geranium Project

Making virtual reality artworks is presented as a new frontier where there are no maps and the viewer is faced with charting their own course, exploring in a way that suits them and exercising agency in the encounter. The difficulty with VR as a medium is precisely that it seeks to be ‘like being there’ and ‘there’ must be somewhere, real or imaginary. It is regarded as a manifestation of Plato’s Cave and we are reminded of hisi instruction to return to the shadows to educate our fellow men on the reality that they cannot see. The clarion call of this new technology is immersion and agency towards gesamtkunstwerkii, but it might equally be thought to be  “a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/ Signifying nothing.”iii As with any new tool there is a degree of evangelism inherent in its dissemination.

On a simple level Virtual Reality offers an opportunity to address the movement between transcendence and immanenceiv as consciousness moves between representations. In ‘the geranium project’ the photographic stands for the real (transcendent) object(s) and the drawn elements for the represented (immanent) objects. The environment presents as a field for the fulfilment of perception. The ‘player’ moves through the spaces, looking, listening, considering the changes encountered as they progress. As perceptions challenge the notion of existence the project is an exploration of the act of looking.

The act of “looking” is the foundation of any art work and is the immediate interface with the audience, and this is not in any way a radical viewpoint. The entirety of training in art is about looking in a way that breaks through the filters of perception that are accrued through living. VR offers an opportunity to present a work in a format that reduces the need to suspend disbelief as it tricks the brain into an assumption of presence. It must be noticed that this trick pales with repetition and is both less and more effective with people who play computer games. Any work using this expression has to be sure of the meaning of the perceived presence, in geranium that presence is centred on space.

Discussing the Chauvet Cave paintingsv John Berger remarks that

‘The thrust of an animal’s neck or the set of its mouth or the energy of its haunches were observed and recreated with a nervousness and control comparable to what we find in the works of a Fra Lippo Lippi, a Velázquez, or a Brancusi. Apparently art did not begin clumsily.[…] There was a grace from the start.’ vi

he argues that the difference between then and now is space, rather than finesse, the space, he states, ‘in which their images exist as images and were imaginedvii This connection between the space of the imagination and the physical space in which it is expressed is central to the thesis of the ‘geranium project’. Geranium’s space is composed of versions of a real space, a private space recreated in different conditions, and versions of that space reimagined as drawings and paintings by the artist. The ‘player ‘viii moves through the gardens from a cave like space within the artist’s studio, progressing from reality to reality through the imaginary a number of times during their immersion.

When entering a new space we are faced with a number of responses, curiosity, intrigue, anxiety, or perhaps even irritation. We spend our attention on the environment according to our preconceptions and our intentions within it, so that we may, if we have an appointment, search for signs and follow them trying to exclude distraction, or if we are there without purpose, or only to look, we linger over details allowing ourselves to be drawn into reveries. If this space is a museum we might aim for a studio or a particular collection or gallery, even a specific work, we might search for order, a chronology or stylistic guide to help us navigate, or we may just wander, a glimpse of colour or light catches our eye and we move towards it, spellbound. When the space is the artwork these same intentions direct us as entering a virtual space is essentially the same as entering a building.

The installation itself is experienced in both the physical and virtual worlds, it is a confined space, around two and a half metres at its widest and of a similar height, with illumination provided by a video projected onto a cloth at its end. The journey through the video is replicated in VR as the introduction to the garden spaces. The space has a soundtrack of birdsong that gradually gets louder with the interjection of thunder at some points as the audience passes. Additionally there is a representation of the birds from within the VR that can be viewed as Augmented Reality objects using an android app. The passage through the installation in its physical manifestation is replicated in the VR world as the player passes through (into) the video and enters the virtual garden.

Sartre suggested that imaginary objects are a “melange of past impressions and recent knowledge”ix and the virtual space in geranium explores this idea. The space is represented in a way that is clearly not intended to be ‘physical’ reality but is instead an ‘imagined’ reality requiring the same distance and suspension that we experience when we view a photograph. It is not the ‘thing’, but we accept a perception of it as the ‘thing’ without deep consideration (most of the time). Joseph Kosuth’s ‘One and Three Chairs ‘x is a more explicit expression of this kind of thinking. If we accept geranium as, on one level, a manifestation of conceptual space there are still questions of agency and intention within the space. Intention needs to be questioned from the viewpoints of the “player” and the viewpoint of the artist. Geranium presents itself as an exploration of the transcendent act of drawing, challenging the binary contrast with the immanent and the interpretation of the imaginary through the presentation of analogons as described by Sartrexi. The artist asks the player to view a translation, in the mind of the artist, of a photographic view of the garden into a garden rendered in a three dimensional representation of the garden as a drawing. The photographic garden is presented in three ways, playing with scale, weather conditions and intensity of observation, sparsely populated with birds that, upon closer inspection, are discarded drawings. Each of these spaces leads into a rendered garden presenting an interpretation of those differences. All of the spaces, photographic and drawn, are accompanied by a soundtrack of ambient garden noises with slight differences for each. The intention of the player is, hopefully, to explore. The idea of having any agency in relation to an artwork is difficult. On the one hand a work requires the application of imagination as well as the simple choice to engage or not. The structure of the work should coerce the operation of this agency in the audience.xii Against this the audience as ‘player’ in a VR work has to choose beyond this intial engagement and must exercise this agency within a tighter structure to fully realise the experience. In geranium’s gardens the audience choose their speed, and their direction as well as what they see. There are spots where they can stop to listen and there are places where they might find a secret.

Geranium explores the way engagement with all aspects of a space can be imagined and recreated as an immersive artwork.

Notes:

i Gill, N.S. “The Allegory of the Cave From the Republic of Plato.” ThoughtCo, Jan. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/the-allegory-of-the-cave-120330.

ivWhere an experienced, represented, and remembered object (e.g., a tree) is inside consciousness (immanent), whereas the real object itself is outside the mind (transcendent).

v Chauvet Cave (also known as Chauvet-Pont d’Arc) is currently the oldest known rock art site in the world, apparently dating to the Aurignacian period in France, about 30,000 to 32,000 years ago. Hirst, K. Kris. “Chauvet Cave.” ThoughtCo, Jan. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/chauvet-cave-france-170488.

vi Berger, J. 2015. The Chauvet Cave Painters (c 30,000 years BC). In: Overton, T ed. PORTRAITS John Berger on Artists. London: Verso, pp 1-6

vii Ibid p2

viiiThe term ‘player’ is used deliberately in the context of Virtual Reality, more active than ‘viewer’ whilst still, in effect, a witness.

ix Sartre, Jean-Paul,The Imaginary: A Phenomenological Psychology of the Imagination Translated by Jonathan Webber, (London and New York: Routledge, 2004)

xii In the social sciences there is a standing debate over the primacy of structure or agency in shaping human behaviour. Structure is the recurrent patterned arrangements which influence or limit the choices and opportunities available. Agencyis the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. The structure versus agency debate may be understood as an issue of socialization against autonomy in determining whether an individual acts as a free agent or in a manner dictated by social structure. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_%28sociology%29

The Geranium Project (R&D) 31

Monday was spent making further adjustments to the VR world. One of the difficulties of working in VR on your own – the way I do it – is that you are continually moving into and out of the virtual as you make slight adjustments in Unity. It is hard to tell what effect they have had without taking the time to try out the world. On Monday I spent time doing this having been frustrated that I forgot to copy the bird_knot animations onto my portable disc so I couldn’t bring them into the model.

You get a sense of the small iterations I mean from the video above.

I’ve managed to work out the PIR for my arduino for the thunder inside the installation but part of working it out meant I discovered a collection of new parts I need to make the finished article. I tried to get the webcam working to cover this on Wednesday but there is a fault that means I can’t adjust the motion detection subtly enough to detect movement when I want it.

Friday was a chance to copy the current version of the VR before I attempt the build again and to shoot a view of the installation in its almost finished state.

I’ve also managed to set up a projection of the VR experience.

Projection from VR

The Geranium Project (R&D) 30

Monday 20th January, finally managed to work on the textures for the gardens and the bird knots. I painted another, final?, coat on to the installation as well.

Starling Texture One

I overworked this one a bit, so it needs to dry.

Starling Texture Two

This one is better.

entrance

This is the entrance to the installation,

looking back from the screen

Looking back from the projection,

towards the entrance

and back to the entrance.

I think I’ll have to call it a day if I want to get the other things I’m working on done for February 10th.

On Wednesday I had a visit at the shop from Juliet Farrar who runs Doncaster Creates for the council. She tells me that the target for the project is to develop knowledge of the arts presence in the town, at least I think that’s how it breaks down. There isn’t the investment for a city, or town, of culture, and there is little to no value in a festival yet. There is a strong offer in the arts in Doncaster but it is disparate and therefore has no discernible presence. Once again we seem to be at a point where things might happen, there is a lot going on, but it may be another false dawn.

On the Tuesday I made a new version of the geranium project installation projection. This is a low resolution version of it.

The rest of the week was interupted by Vets, Dentist, and rats in the garden. I managed to do some more work on the animated birds and Luke has pretty much resolved the AR for the installation. It may well be that we make a version that works externally to the installation, or can be carried in to it.

The Geranium Project (R&D) 29

On Monday I managed to do the second coat of the installation drawing, adding in some lighter shapes over the very black lines of the first version from Friday.

newinstallation back wall

new installation back wall

I worked on the VR world that I have to recover after the difficulties I had last week. There are still a few things that need to be resolved but it is progressing well.

This week I had to go in on Tuesday afternoon as well to have my photograph taken for the free press.

Doncaster Free Press Report

It was in on Thursday, fulfilling another project aim with publicity. I was intending to get in on Thursday to work on finishing off but toothache intervened and I had a trip to the dentist instead. On Friday I worked on the VR while Luke and Kim got the AR into gear and that will be finished up on Wednesday next week. I also got the installation lighting rewired to help with the AR.

This leaves very little to do to finish off now, I need to model the installation into the VR and have a final runthrough with the appropriate sound files and we’re there.