A SPACE FOR LEARNING ABOUT VR in VR
Create Reality, don't just copy it. In the VR classroom, we dive deep into the design challenges of the virtual. The challenges of concept and composition are given priority. To that end, the crafting of virtual poetry is a common project. Poetry, in combination with VR, opens the door to a design space that is technically simple, yet conceptually vast, rich, and expressive. Reflections on virtual poetry, on multiple works, reveals paths and patterns. Sheding the goals of games & simulations allows the elements of VR composition and the larger language of VR design to emerge. Technical support is offered, but our focus is not on which buttons to press in Unity, Max, or Maya. Good existing technical skills combined with a great desire to explore VR beyond the domain of games or simulations is required.
The images below show works of student virtual art and poetry, critique sessions of imported 3D work, technical starter projects, and students sharing work at various conferences.
It began with Poetry, more specifically virtual poetry readings done with shapeshifting avatars. Think PowerPoint meet's Disney's Aladdin genie. Multiple art installations linked through repurposed principles of game design and cinema, presented to an audience by the VR object commonly known as an avatar. It was easy. Just reimagine what a body is, what gestures are, and much falls into place. Early pioneers like Adam Nash took the work into his musical performances, Melinda Rackham connected the data-ness with her experience with viruses. It was a curious time, and I eventually shifted from poetry to educational expressions. Teaching is a performance art afterall.
In the early days it was simply fun. Long nights spent exploring the possibities of the virtual and the seemingly limitless ways to express yourself. Poetry was a wonderful starting point. In terms of modeling and coding, it's potentially very simple and flexible. It provides a narrative scaffold for creators to leverage as a foundation for images, models, interactions. More importantly, poetry as an art form asks the creator to focus on the larger meanings and emotional values within that narrative. Sadly, poetry for many people is an oddity, a bit conceptual fluff. Other people invested time in copying reality - making things ever more realistic in rendering or behavior. Not me or my VR art community in the mid 1990's. We took a different path, we looked to create reality, rather than copy it.
Many years have past, several cycles of VR hype have come and gone, and so much design knowledge appears to have been lost.
This classroom and this project takes a hands on approach to teaching VR art & design. Examples of past creative VR works and approaches are shared. Conceptual frameworks are provided. Current works and trends are discussed. Those who sign on are typically shocked by the world of ideas and possiblities that unfolds before them. Conceptualizing virtual poetry for example is at once both simple sounding and incredibly daunting.