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) 27

Over Christmas I continued work on the VR element of the project. I’m working towards the AR animated birds for the installation and the photographic gardens using paper tied into knots.

bird knots drawing

bird knots drawing

This drawing is A1, charcoal, pencil and pastel and I’ve made a couple of 3d models and animated a short section.

bird knot models

bird knot models

I also tied a few pieces so that I can try out using them as an AR trigger.

I went into the studio for the first time on Friday 3rd January and met with wayne, details of this meeting follow.

Discussed current progress of work, what needs to happen next and what help wayne could give in achieving that.

Outlined the plan going forward.

  1. Tidy up current iteration of Geranium VR – skies, edges, tunnels, etc.,

  2. Introduce animated sections to painted garden

  3. Introduce animated birds to photo garden sections

  4. Finish spoken word sections, quotes and explicatory texts for tunnels, gnomic utterances for gardens

  5. make birdsong soundtracks for drawn and phot gardens

  6. Work with Iain Nicholls on build for VR space

  7. Work with Luke Roberts on AR birds for installation

  8. Finish rain section for installation, run PIR off tower PC if necessary

  9. Organise press release for Invitees week beginning 10th February 2020

  10. Invite appropriate people (get the invites out by end of next week 10/01/2020

  11. Get feedback from Kim & Luke for report etc.,

  12. Plan the next steps – meet with Mike Stubbs, Wayne, Luke & Kim to propose and develop next bid for funding

Wayne agreed to email me introductions to key people in Doncaster.

In discussing the next steps for the project wayne proposed several people it would be worth contacting in Doncaster Council, Doncaster Archives, Barnsley Museums etc.,

Two things particularly need establishing as part of the future display of the object, firstly the entrance to the space can be remade for each location it is placed in, and secondly that the photographic elements of the VR space provide potential for a number of future works utilising archival photgraphs and contemporaneous images. Hexthorpe Park springs to mind.

I need to put the press release information out onto my Linked In page, through Twitter, send to Doncopolitan for Facebook, onto the Doncaster Creative wotsit, onto a-n, Axisweb etc., as well as the blog and send it to Doncaster Free Press, Yorkshire Post, The Star (Sheffield?) and anywhere else I can think of.

The Geranium Project (R&D) 23

Late again with the blog post. My excuse is the febrile nature of the world currently and the difficulty ignoring it. On Monday 25th I had a catch up meeting with Wayne Sables about where to take the project next. I am determined that I’ll have a new set up completed for a weekend event after the election!

These videos give a sense of where the project is and where it’s going.

The major thing to do with the physical installation is to get some light into it wirhout interfering with the projection, so on wednesday I got some Christmas lights and installed them along on wall.

I worked out that my issue with the VR world gardens having the same textures was because they were copies, essentially Unity appears to ‘instance’ copies as a default. I had to reload the gardens as separate files to maintain their differences.

I made a layout drawing to help me position the gardens so that the world functions as a circle, the idea being that you follow the succesive gardens and end up back where you started.

The Geranium Project (R&D) 22

After a desultory effort at last weeks blog due to a truncated week this week was better focused and, eventually, more productive.

This is a better photograph of the drawing begun last week, I’m hoping to be able to interpret this into a 3d model for the hedges in one of the garden versions. The main thrust of the week was developing the interior of the installation upstairs while preparing for an event in mid December where the new installation and the VR need to be presented.

I spent Monday doing some work on the drawing and installing the projector for the new installation. I’ve raised the height to limit the shadows now that I’m not having the revealed texts, and need to limit the width of the projection to the eight foot square backcloth that you will be able to walk through. Doing this on a shoestring means that I’ve used a drip cover I had as the projection screen, after testing I’ve had to paint the centre of it white so that the video shows up better. The next stage is to limit the space, making the environment more oppresive and confining. This will limit the audience to two or three at a time, but that will (may) allow for the ‘player’ to leave the installation and enter the VR world.

Alongside this we had a heavy frost on Tuesday so I took the opportunity to photgraph the garden and on Wednesday I adjusted the VR to make the frost garden. The two pictures below show scenes from within the ‘frost garden’ in VR.

colour adjusted garden

Frost Garden in VR (the ground is icy now)

On Friday I worked on the installation, using the ‘Snow Line’ scultpure to build up one side of the installation.

Composite views of the new installation

Lit view of the new installation

Lit view of the new installation

The installation is taking shape now and I’ve created a couple of niches where some interactive elements will be installed – I need to introduce some lighting and at a low level and the sound needs significant work.

The Geranium Project (R&D) 17

Following on last Friday I’ve got a group of students coming this week. Monday was spent cleaning up the current file as much as possible. I’ve kept a copy for my visitors to see on Wednesday.

Presentation to Students from Barnsley College 16/10/2019

The visits start with a brief presentation that covers the studio (axisweb, insurances, precarity, etc.,) and then the ACE project and it’s gestation. This is followed up with a chance to try the VR and look at the installation. I then get people to feedback on the big boards.

Student feedback 16/10/2019

The students were generally positive about the work but there were a range of views about the validity of VR as an art form, how well the installation worked and whether the two elements worked together. So far I’m pleased that the feedback reflects my own feelings about the next steps for the work.

I’ve got a couple of videos of students using the space so I can get information about how it is used.

At the moment I still need someone to instruct the ‘player’ as they negotiate the space.

Do I insert instructions into the space, and if so should they be written or spoken?

After Wednesday I spent some time working on the new version of the garden, finally resolving (as best I can) the splashes into 3d models

The video shows importing, scaling and positioning some of the new models. There is still a good amount of work to do.

The Geranium Project (R&D) 16

The Geranium Project (R&D) 16

The video shows the run through as it was on 7th October 2019. This week is about getting some feedback to help determine progression. I have meetings with collaborators today and Wednesday and then an open event on Friday.

NOTES From Wednesday 09/10/2019

Mike Stubbs studio visit 2:30 pm

Look up Geoffrey Shaw, MS commissioned him in Australia, from HK University. Very experienced in VR, particularly dome tech.

Look up Drawn Code, commercial VR and immersive installations, based in Liverpool, have made portable VR installs.

Question why you need a built environment and why it would need to be more permanent, does the built environment have any intrinsic value?

Look up Society Art Technology (SAT) – Montreal they have a dome with 16 cameras, there is a 1-2 week timescale for converting media to run in the dome or it has to be specially made.

Would the installation work as another structure, dome, variable (adjustable)?

For the presentation:

Don’t show the whole video on the VR slide, if you give people the experience they won’t try it out. Maybe bring them back if there is no time for all to try it out.

In the installation:

Bleed the drawing onto the back wall, it makes more sense for there to be something under the projection.

Move the projector up and keystone it to the screen. The text on the back is not happening now so the waist high installation is redundant.

It needs a better sound quality for exhibition, but the installation with the film and sound forces you into your own space. A quiet kind of space, peaceful, spiritual?

Practically you need to tell people how to engage with the piece, how long does it last? Should people stay as long as they like or for a defined period? Does it have a start and a finish time? Put a notice up informing people of these things.

For the VR experience:

Ask people if they have used a headset (VIVE) before. Expect them to say yes even if they haven’t. Use the full headphones not the buds.

Before people wear the headset give them the instructions for movement, showing them the hand controller and how to use it. Be explicit about the direction of movement using this and that they can walk through the screens at the ends of the gardens.

Tell them that they may feel a little motion sickness or vertigo and to let us know if they want to stop.

Increase the speed, or at least the ability to accelerate.

Aside – Look up Damian Murphy from York St. John’s and remember John Stopforth.

Look up NOTES ON BLINDNESS – VR Documentary, about 6 years old was shown at FACT.

Are you going to the Aesthetica Film festival? VR section.

Check out ‘Eyes of the animal’ a VR experience staged in Grisedale forest by Marshmallow Laser Fest and ‘Ocean of Air’, used breathing to nvigate and change size.

You should stage the VR in the garden! – A precise location would help the spoken word element. Keep Writing!

I’ve copied my notes from the meeting verbatim so I have a legible record of the thoughts and suggestions I’m receiving. I have two boards in the studio on which people will write their opinions, suggestions etc., as they experience the piece(s).

There was a suggestion today that I exploit the sensation of VR, the motion sickness, by having tunnels between the spaces – rabbit holes. After thinking about this I’m inclined to keep away from this approach. The two key things I want for the space are that it is not attempting realism and that it is not a game space, it’s not about the ‘wow’ effect but is rather about reflection and calm.

Friday I tidied up the space a litle more before visitors came to the presentations. We had about a dozen people who mostly came for Andrea Berry’s very good presentation about her installation.

I separated and re-rendered the videos for the installation, the six minute version is too large to embed here and set the space up as a close to finished as possible.

The evening went well in terms of the reactions to the VR piece and the installation. The latter is seen increasingly as a thing apart from the VR and I need to work to reconcile this. The best suggestions (closest to my own feeling) recognised the need to make the installation more confining and have it reflect the VR world much more closely, the suggestion is that there should be sculptures in it that are also in the VR world.

I have two groups of students booked in for next Wednesday and the Wednesday after to get a bigger selection of opinions.

The Geranium Project (R&D) 08

This week was supposed to be when I moved the VR into the space. Best laid plans and all that. I still need to sort out the internet for the studio and that’s delayed me for a week at the least. Life has intervened in other ways as well so part of the week was spent on the phone to Virgin Media.

I did get to the studio on Monday, continuing to work on the drawings I started last week,

Large Hydrangea August

Large Hydrangea August

adding some green to the big piece and working into the centre with black pastel and fingers.

One of six drawings made on Monday and Wednesday last week

One of six drawings made on Monday and Wednesday last week

As an example this is the development of the one I posted last week, another one looks like this now…

small hydrangea

small hydrangea

After this I got waylaid by virgin and decided to work on the VR at home for Wednesday and Thursday.

VR installation test

VR installation test

The first test I made works some of the drawings into a model of the installation space. The next two try to work the same drawings into the garden as a whole.

VR garden test

VR garden test

The latest has better materials but I’m still working out the problems with importing scale, establishing movement etc., should all be resolvable but I want to get it into the right ballpark before I bring the experts in.

2nd VR garden test

2nd VR garden test

this image and the next best illustrate the issue with scale

2nd VR garden test

2nd VR garden test

After 3 days away from the studio I continued to work on the large drawing, and did some further work on the small ones, but my major effort was to stretch some more paper on my new drawing boards.

large hydrangea

large hydrangea

small hydrangea

small hydrangea

And the studio looks like this.

Studio mid August

Studio mid August

The Geranium Project (R&D) 07

This week spent mostly working through the ramifications of paying people through the ACE funding. Actually quite easy to sort, and not too onerous a task when you’ve worked it out, but a real pain to find and understand the information through the HMRC website.

I decided I needed to get some greenery into the studio and this prompted a new set of drawings.

Hydrangea

I started a set of six drawings, this is one,

One of six drawings made on Monday and Wednesday

I also ordered some wood to make a large chest for storage – intentionally very heavy.

Large Chest

and started a big drawing…

Large Drawing begun Monday

I’ve worked further on this on Friday but the process is quite slow as the layers are added and I’m entirely unsure about the colours.

Progress on big drawing

This may well be torn up eventually. This week is a hiatus before the work on the VR component begins in earnest.

The Geranium Project (R&D) 06

Monday was spent installing the curtain for Andrea’s installation and then positioning ‘Snow Line’ and hanging the companion drawing.

Monday Prep

Monday’s preparation

Andrea’s piece is a re-imagining of her recent MA exhibition about motherhood.

Andrea Berry - Installation

Andrea Berry – Installation

It has lighting and sound so this video gives a better impression.

On Tuesday we finished setting up the gallery downstairs when Luke and Kim brought their work from Barnsley. Adding a black curtain over the white for the downstairs installation and hanging seven of Kim’s large images. Luke placed his matrix of nine small prints at the foot of the stairs.

Composite Exhibition Image

Composite Exhibition Image

The evening really started for us at about 5:30 pm and we had a steady stream of visitors until I was able to lock up at 8:20 pm. Generally people were engaged and interested and we had up to fifteen people upstairs by 7:30 pm, so maybe between 80 and 100 visitors over the course of the night.

It makes it feel like the project is officially underway, even though that’s been the case for six weeks now.

The prosaic stuff. As this was part of the Doncaster Crawl, Doncopolitan contributed to the launch with posters and publicity as well as a good deal of coordination over the evening. The cost was limited to providing refreshments for our visitors so the evening cost me about £40.00 – It is useful to note that this cost is personal because no events were proposed in the project, it being R&D, but there will obviously be some costs associated with the planned review events in late September and December. Filling the holes from the last hang and painting added another £10.00 or thereabouts as I had white emulsion in and only needed to purchase filler. There is always a good amount of time spent prepping for a show and this used 22 hours of the 96 I’ve budgeted for physical assistance.  The shop makes a good venue and the exhibition will remain in place for a month or so.

The Geranium Project (R&D) 05

Work on the big drawing on Monday 15th

Monday 15th was a return to the studio after a weeks holiday. The nature of a break is that it causes something of a reassessment and provides only thinking time, there is no time to make anything. I thought a lot about ways to create the drawings in 3D, whether doing this made the VR space an exhibition, if I was spending too much time worrying about that and I should merely make the world simply?

I tried out an idea for the space as a maquette.

Monday macquettes

Monday maquettes

On Wednesday I had a visit from another artist who is going to show in the space with me on Tuesday next for the Doncaster Crawl. The first publicised event for the installation project. A good portion of the day was spent discussing options.  I started an ‘inspiration’ corner to give any visitors an idea of what I was intending.

Inspiration board

Inspiration board

One board with some of my thinking and quotes from sources that have informed it – I need to work on some visuals for this.

Questions and Lookups board

Questions and Lookups board

On the whiteboard I put suggestions made by the ‘mentors’ and some questions raised by them and myself.

Afterwards I produced an addition to the maquettes.

Maquettes

Wednesday macquettes

Maybe the video gives a better idea of my thinking?

 

Friday was a day of tidying and organising for the ‘Crawl’. I cleared the gallery space,

Gallery space ready for Monday

Andrea Berry is showing some of her MA work and I’ll show the three ‘Snow Line’ works across the centre. Hopefully there will be some others in the space as well.  I’ll use the upstairs to show the beginnings of ‘Geranium’.

Studio space for Monday

Sketchbooks on one table

Sketchbooks

and drawings on the other

Portfolio of Drawings

It will all be ready for 5pm on Tuesday.