Inside Pussy Riots: Immersive Theatre Review

About this immersive show I found out maybe even before it was fully written. Les Enfant Terrible approached the place where I used to work with the idea of making a piece of VR experience for this production. VR was meant to take place in the prison cell where Nadya Tolokonnikova was kept. The idea was to recreate those feelings of imprisoning, humiliation and brutality whilst listening to Nadya’s prayer. We put together a proposal with few ideas and sent it off. I never met the client, spoken to them or seen the original brief or script, so I’m not entirely sure how the conversation ended, but we never got to work on the VR part… So obviously when I found out from social media that show is on there was no border to my curiosity to go there and find out for myself what experience is like. I really wanted to find out how did they deploy that part of the story. Did they actually do VR in the end? Who produced it? Or what did they do instead of it? So I went for the answers. No phones or cameras were allowed to use during the performance, to not break the immersion, so all i had left were my memories written down.

 

The experience started with all group members getting together by the door and filling in the form that we were given. It was asking name, age, twitter and instagram accounts, how we find out about the show, on what money did we get the tickets, and in the end was a list with the number of statements from which each had to choose those they believe in most. Got to say I didn’t read the line with the tiny letters, so i ticked all the boxed before I found out that was meant to choose just one.. The actress with a quite high and quite annoying voice wearing pussy Riot t-shirt greeted us upon the arrival and asked to place our forms into the drawers in the wall that much the numbers stamped earlier on our hands. It was 13 of us in total. In a bit we were asked us to go back to our drawers again and collect cards that were put there for us based on our answers in the forms. Mine said: “Don’t Censor Me”… wonder based on what specifically they gave that card.. Then we were asked to put on a balaclavas of our preference and enter the first room.

 

Starting in the church-like environment with the painted as saints world’s leaders (Putin, Trump, and 2 more), the experience took us on a full journey of Pussy Riot’s imprisoning. We sat on the benches watching the priest actress’еs preaching. Next, the girl in balaclava entered the room asking us to stand by her side and raise our cards. As we did so, the police actresses appeared to arrest us, get us on the knees and take to the next room – which was a police office. Two ladies police officers played a short act about police and us – the convicted. They asked two members of the crowd to play “rock paper scissors” game. The girl that lost the game was pulled out in the center of the room and sat on the chair. The next thing they told her was to take off her cloth. She rejected, they insist, she rejected, they insist… eventually she took off her shoes, trousers, and jumper… For a second I thought she might’ve been an actress, as it felt bit too much to ask for from visitors, as it was quite a humiliating thing to do and be part of… I was watching people’s faces and their reactions, some were quite shocked, some were smiling provokingly, whereas other remained still, but no one dared to say anything. When the girl was standing in her underwear, police actres told her to take off the remainings – and that’s when they stopped it and the half naked girl admitted she was an actress… What proved my point.

 

The next door took us into the light corridor made up from LED stripes layered in between fake wall cut outs. It took us into the dark room, split in half with the security grille. On the other side the set was built as court-circus environment with the actress dressed up as a judge-puppet doll.  Very well played, scripted and visually harmonical – this act was maybe one of my favorite parts of the show. As puppet-judge found us all guilty, we went to the next room – the prison. I was the first to enter the space and i found one of the actresses standing in the very center of the room. I stood up very close to her, starring in the eyes, wondering how will she respond. She mirrored me for few seconds while the rest of people were getting inside the room,“interesting” –  she said and walked away. People were getting into the seats by the sides of the wall, when they were told to stand up. Here is when i started to misbehave – i remain seated. Actress raised her voice, but i was still not following her commands. I chose to misbehave for the number of reasons; 1. I kinda felt like they were waiting for someone to start acting differently; 2. I was very curious is there is a route B, and if not how far would they go if not physical 3. I felt inspired by the riots spirit – It was my little protest to not follow the script… Eventually everyone got seated and then raised back on their feet again.  We were told to put on an overall prison costumes that matched our numbers. As we were dressing up, actors were throwing some humiliating and insulting comments to add more pressure and roughness to the situation. As we all got dressed, we formed a row from 1 to 13 and made our way to the next part.

 

Here we had to pick a favorite workstation and get on with work. I stopped by the table with the pin badge machine, which seemed quite fun to do. As i got my hands on it i realized that something was wrong with it – it was clearly made broken, so no one copes with their tasks and they can blame us for that. I started chatting to my neighbour inmate and laughing about it, when they told us to stand up and switch the tools. Everyone but not me. Actress policewoman called me up by my number and told to lie down on the floor, i was rejecting. I threw some comments in, they told, well screamed to shut the fuck up, i was still rejecting. I wasn’t following their rules to see how far would they do – wondering what’s their limit. Part of me wanted to resist to the end and do not follow their commands at all, but something in me was thinking that they may take me out from the experience completely if i don’t play the game, and that would’ve been a bit disappointing… So eventually i did lie down on the floor, but not as they wanted, and then i think they reached their limit of pressure they were allowed to express. She just kept on giving me these tense and staring looks, and so did i, mirroring her back to her.

 

From the “tool room” they got us into the “exercise room” where we stood in line and had to repeat silly exercise from the screen in front. The police girl warned us that those who disobey and do not perform exercise will be punished, and the punished will be not the one who misbehaved, but other inmates. So obviously i chose to be that person, as it was too tempting to find out what will they do. I stopped repeating the moves and stand still. The alarm went on an I was taken out of the line and faced to wall. And.. no punishment follow… As the next to happen – they took us all into our private cells, which wasn’t really dependant on me misbehaving, as it was just a next part of the story where VR was meant to be.

 

As i got into my cell they closed the door leaving us in the complete darkness. I was trying to find the headset, as I knew that would’ve been a place for it. But in front of me were just the headphones, so I put them on. There were no headset in the cell…. They chose to keep this part very simple – stereo via headphones, not even positional sound. The narration was Nadya’s prayer and call to stand up for your truth. Underneath our seats they left cards with our affirmations that we were given in the beginning. As narration was over cell doors automatically opened up and we all came out holding our cards. We were asked to stand in the center of the room, face the light, introduce ourselves and speak out the belief on the card that we fight for. Those bits were filmed and added to the common reel with other show participants. This was the end of the immersive experience. On the ground floor there was also a room with some of their posters, paintings, and videos from their performances.

 

In the conclusion I can say that yes – the desired result was achieved. I got to feel the tension and pressure creators wanted to audience feel. However I do come from post-ussr country myself, and i do know what prisons are like there, even though thankfully i never been there myself. Obviously it is impossible to show in the full extent the real brutality that is practised there, otherwise it would end up in a massive scandal if visitor were treated as bad here in UK. But even this highlights on how fucked up the system is back there… A lot can be said on this subject, however the aim of this review is to reflect back on the experience, rather than on the prison situation back there. So the experience – great acting, wonderful set and costumes… loved it a lot and do recommend to attend. It was very essential for me to see it from the professional point, as I’m currently involved in the immersive theatre production too. Would VR make it better? – Yes. Was it bad without it – No. Since no emerging tech was used throughout the whole experience it felt alright having just audio experience in the cell. However having a binaural positional sound in the cell would elevate in a lot creating a mesmerising illusion of telepresence.

Learning Arnold: Plastic Materials 1

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Cyberdelics Incubator: Event Review

Festive Halloween week apparently didn’t give me enough experience of death, so I made my way to the Cyberdelics Incubator to experience more of the Near Death Experiences (NDEs) through the use of immersive tech.

Led by Carl H Smith, director of the Learning Technology Research Centre, Cyberdelics Incubator is a collective initiative that unites together like minded artists that believe in the power of transformation behind the emerging tech, which can be favorable or destructive, depending on how one looks at it.

The evening was a combination of immersive arts and talks around my favorite subjects of cutting edge tech, consciousness, and of course psychedelics. The panel presented 8 very diverse speakers, each working around these subjects and transcending concepts of life and death, in order to design a new range of altered states of consciousness through the immersive tech.

The event was hosted by Apiary Studios. The panel discussion was held in the bar area fitting around 60-70 people creating an intimate and friendly atmosphere. Each artist had around 15-20 minutes to enlighten the audience about their background, origins of inspiration, expand on the message behind the work, and shine some light on the future plans for their expansion. As talks came to an end the crowd shifted into the studio to experience what was awaiting.

I started my journey at the “Cyber Mushroom” by Batuhan Bintaş, recent LCC graduate, sound by Christian Duka “Cyber Mushroom” is an AR experience that brings to life Batuhan’s paintings.The physical installation presented 3 x A1 flat graphic paintings and a couple of tablets and a phone to experience them in motion. In the middle painting sat on a mushroom cap Terence McKenna, surrounded by giant mushrooms, and holding a small one in this hands…. Well, it’s a Cyber mushroom, what else would you expect? Side paintings were Batuhan’s psychedelic self-portraits reflecting on his inner perception of himself.  The augmented layer was made out of audio narration combined with flat animation of paintings. The first to experience was a self-portrait with Batuhan’s voice over describing concept behind the project. The augmented visuals split painting into the layers, with some of them disappearing, morphing, and shifting back and forward. The second painting was Terence McKenna, well at least his head, floating within mushrooms multiplying and generating out of the painting. The audio was McKenna’s monologue about the potential of VR to show the insides of our heads. Unfortunately i didn’t get to experience the third painting in the augmented dimension as it was still under development. The visual execution let me down a bit. Not much was going on visually in the time that was assigned to it. It also felt a bit flat. Yeah, Batuham’s art is flat 2D, but i feel like some extra 3 dimensional elements would enhance his multi-dimensional work. Overall it felt to me more of a presentation than an experience. A presentation gives viewers facts for digestion, whereas the experience generally leaves a viewer with some space for subjective interpretations of the events…. But hey, gotta pay respect for the first Unity project. The foundation is laid!

The second part of the experience was a pink circuit plane with the blue neon vertical boxed outlines, strongly reminding me of Tron. The fly through this part was way too long. The first part was building up well, with the increasing speed and beats, but as I entered pink circuit i got bored from the lack of variety in the events around me. Again, the experience felt flat to me, texturing could be elevated to more volumetric shapes to add to more depth to it. The experience was developed 3 years ago – which explains its low-fi look. But I have to say that this “roughness” kind of does fit in well. I’ve read a number of Timothy Leary books and the touch and feel that his work left me with does indeed correspond with the approach James took in his  interpretation. As we carried on chatting I was pleasantly surprised that apart from the love of Immersive tech and psychedelics we also have something else in common – Alex Lambert  – my ex-creative director at INITION with whom I’ve worked hand by hand for almost a year. A few years ago James met Alex at some very boring event where Alex was one of the speakers. James said that with his speech Alex drastically changed the dying vibe of the day with his unlimited passion and enthusiasm to VR and actually inspired James to make this whole project!  

My next subject was visual artist Jose Montemayor with his VR film “Death is only the Beginning” (Virtual NDE experience). Before getting in the headset everybody was asked to fill in the form about how they feel at the moment and if they had a NDE. Here i struggled for a bit. What i consider as my NDE might not have been NDE at all. The experiences that i had were not the organic NDEs that happen to some people when their hearts physically stops working. I have had close to NDE previously when i went on a DMT trips. I can’t really argue the authenticity of what i had in relation to the real NDE’s. I can only base it on my own and others assumptions. But anyway, i said YES and put on a headset.  The experience started with the unexpected – it started as an educational documentary focusing on what is going wrong with the planet: global warming, oceans, waste, pollution etc. First taking the viewer through NDE of the world before moving onto the NDE of the viewer. You die by jumping of the building You don’t really fall for long, you kind of die falling. Having this moment for longer would freak out a lot of people, but i personally would love to experience the proper fall.and smashing into the pavement. But it’s just me.. So as you die you raise up into the sky, go through light tunnel, then you face a huge white doll surrounded with some fractalic patterns all that accompanied with a female voice over that describes to you what’s happening. The first documentary part was narrated by Jose himself and the second part with the professional VO had a much greater impact. Anyway, after we meet  white entity we travel a bit around the space, go through few fractals, look at the world from far and are being sent back to life. Overall the experience felt too long for the amount of events within in. It was overly static, as Jose mainly used 360 images then video or 3D worlds. I saw a lot of ways it could be technically enhanced: bringing in more motion, working on transitions, working over stitching, positional sound – all these would elevate experience drastically. Also there was no stylistic consistency in the experience, & the art direction could’ve been improved. The concept itself is great! I agree that we should talk more about the death and consider it as positive thing rather than negative, and spread the message around about it and about what we do to the planet and find solutions to raise awareness and make a change. And what is great about it is that Jose is already started doing that at his emerging initiative “Virtual Awakening” – a platform that aims to combine thought-provoking art with futuristic technology providing immersive, therapeutic, mind-expanding experiences that ultimately empowers people to expand their boundaries, unleash their true potential and lead them to an enlightened perception of life.  But once again, I think there is a lot work to be done to execute these ideas in more appealing way.

As i returned back to life i went on a healing session with visual artist Rachel Linton. Inspired by shamanism and healing energies Rachel designed and developed Sound Vision app together Justin Holloway. The app is a sound and color generator based on cymatics – process of making sound visible.  The purpose of this app is to serve as meditation tool and as a self healer assisting viewers to resonate with different frequencies. Rachel took it a bit further and put her animations into VR to have a greater impact on the viewer. I was the last person to experience the installation and probably app got tired from continuous interactions and not all of the values were responding to my interactions. Cymatics in VR looked cool and very relaxing indeed. I could watch them forever… However when i think of VR i think of 360°  of events happening around me. Cymatics gave me only 90°. I would’ve enjoyed it way more in the whole 360 space was in use, maybe it’s something to look into next time.

Last, but not least I went on a virtual acid trip. The miracle happened through LUCIA N°03 Hypnagogic Light Machine presented by Mat Harvey developed by Dr. Dirk Proeckl and Dr. Engelbert Winkler. Distracted by the prolonged chats i didn’t realise how time passed and when i headed to the booth Mat was ready to wrap up the thing, but i kindly asked to be the last drug-free tripping person that day. The booth was a reflective grow tent with a chair and a lamp which is causing brain to see visuals. I was mega intrigued, got into a chair and closed my eyes ready to trip balls.  Once again i didn’t realise how time went, the experience only lasted 2 minutes, which wasn’t enough at all.  But it gave a nice taste of what it could be. Speaking only for myself I didn’t necessarily feel what i experienced with a real acid trip, but it was still very profound. I have used acid multiple times and usually my visuals are more image/scene based rather than pattern-based. I usually trip in stories, in mad cartoons, where i’m either the observer or participant. What i experienced with Lucia N°03 was very heavy on patterns which do look similar with those that you see when walls start “breathing” but more intense in flickering. In the experience i was wearing headphones with the music of nature. After a few moments of closed eyes some landscape started to form around me, highly realistic water was washing my feet. Landscape then turned into the bright colors appearing first as dots that then were interconnecting and morphing into kaleidoscopic patterns. Two minute was clearly not enough.

It took 10 years to research and create LUCIA N°03. this amount of time dedicated to this says a lot about the amount effort that went into this project. LUCIA N°03 is mainly designed for therapeutic purposes and it helps the individual learn to let go in stressful situations, rather than resist and make things even more difficult. It also uses a wide spectrum of light which has been reported to have a great impact for people with both seasonal affective disorder and other types of depression. Imagine tripping on real acid same time as on LUCIA N°03? WOW…

I would love to have one at home. I’d dive in a floating chamber and have LUCIA N°03 hanging over me.. Hell yeah!

The evening was full of love and best vibes only It was a pleasure to get connected with all artists and get to know their worlds and see from their perspective. ’m looking into the upcoming future events and maybe next time we can do something together.

Conclusion: We can make a better use of 360 space and….Art Directors are undervalued – they are as important as developers.  The general presentation was underwhelming and could be more engaging. Overall it was a great attempt! 

Projection Mapping Tests

Me and Carl Guyenette did a one day session to test out different techniques for 3D projection mapping and to define a range of workflows that we may use. Tests are done using standard presets, and at this stage were focused more on functionality, then visuals.  We looked into the projections over the static, and moving body, on the avatar-based principle.

C4D: Weekly Render 6

Gazelli Art House: “Enter Through the Headset 2”. Exhibition Review

While city goes mad at LFW I attended Gazelli Art House to see their VR Exhibition: Enter Through the Headset 2.

Exhibition presented 4 VR experience to the visitor on the ground floor and few installations on the level above. But I’ll get my hands straight on VR.

The first experience that I tried was “The Tangle of Mind and Matter” by Rebecca Allen. As I put on a headset I found myself in the sky blue environment facing a large orange brain. As not much was going on I tried to interact with the brain using controllers. Some pieces of brain did respond to my actions and detached from the brain’s mesh, floating and hanging in the space around me. That was beginning and end of interactivity. The rest of the experience was passive. Those interactions triggered pre-rendered animation of brain parts separating revealing a female body resting inside. She breaks out and begins swimming slowly in the space around you. Nothing else is going on for a while until trees appear around you and you start submerging down into the water. Rebeca Allen says that experience is inspired by the centuries-old, philosophical conundrum concerning the relationship between mind and matter and is presented in poetic representation. Even though experience was poetic and calming indeed, in my opinion the potential of VR wasn’t used to it’s fullest. I felt that a lot was left behind and that experience shows a little on such a wide and obscure theme. I’m not sold on the choice of visuals either. There are so many ways this could be deployed, and this is just one of them. I also think sound wasn’t used to its fullest. I mean i almost didn’t even notice it as HTC strap band made it very difficult for me to adjust headset in the desired way, so i could get the most out of the visuals and audio. The weight of the headset almost always makes me hold it with another hand, what partially ruins the experience. Sound also wasn’t load enough, i could still hear noises of the experience. These little details lower down the level of immersiveness, and in such delicate concepts you don’t want to loose visitor’s attention.

My second experience was MAN A VR by Gibson & Martelli, which was my favorite from all. As i put on a headset i delved into the monochrome word of moving geometrical patterns inhibited with the dancing characters made out of the samples of the world we were in. Controller was stylised accordingly and served as a remote between the worlds. Seven in total worlds were challenging visitors perception of space and form. Got to say, freaky geometrical aliens and moving patterns got me – they made me even dance together with them! and honestly I could’ve spent way longer in there, if not the queue behind me. Even though the interaction level was minimum, this symbiosis of visuals and audio was very harmonic and i feel like it served the purpose well. To enhance the experience I’d like to interact more with the caracter figures, be able to pull them apart, where they shrink back to their original shapes, or multiply into more, or trigger some dope graphical animations opening portals to geometrical pathways to the next dimensions. Along those lines… you get it.

The next experience that was tempting me was PORTAL_01 by Jocelyn Anquetil & Charles Harrop-Griffiths which presented itself in a form of Gear VR headset lying on a toilet seat in the gallery’s display windows. Not much information was given on what to expect, so we just went for it. Experience was a collage-like mixed media piece combining flat drawings, cut out and videos. Following one narrative viewer had few options of POV to choose from as they go along into the…feministic dystopian dungeon. World resembled a glitch apocalypses of a pop-cultural exhibitionism starring director i assume. The satiric experience felt like was done on the minimum budget, what actually fits well in ints style, which is again a very subjective view on the subject.. which was? I didn’t feel like the ultimate message was concluded in the end. Experience is a second part of a sequel, so would be interesting to see what the first one was like.

Moving forward, I went experienced The Old Mine by Iain Nicholls. Using photogrammetry he reconstructed old abundant mine in Hemingfield. Very different in its nature from the others, experience takes you down into the mine ad gives you a tour on what’s down there. Don’t try it if you feel claustrophobic, as the further you go the tighter the cave becomes. I doubt how interested i am personally in diving into mines, but got to give my respect into the amount of hard work that was invested in reconstructing this environment. I’d be more entertained if I’d have a freedom of movement within the experience. Yes, i could teleport, but only when narration was over, and only to the place where narrator wanted me to go. I think experience has much more value to those who are in tighter relationships with the mining sphere; and is defiantly winning for educational purposes.

And lastly, interactive installation by Matteo Zamagni. When i got my hands on it…. it was not running properly. The installation was a projection on the way with an iPad that you use to control and change visuals. Installation was run without the sound (which i believe was meant to be a part of it) and a lot of sliders didn’t respond to my actions. Rotation within axes and lighting of a terrain work fine, however the other slider had a very big delay in response and did not adjust the visual. And I don’t complain as I know from my personal experience how tough it is to get thing running in the real time, therefore I would love to see it again when its up and running well.

Milan, Berlin & Recklinghausen

 

 

Check out “Metamorphosis” in:
Berlin – 11Teamsports
Milan – Calcioshop
Recklinghausen – Teamsport Philipp

“Metamorphosis” going in-store

“Metamorphosis” is an interactive installation to promote new Adidas Nemeziz boot. The physical interactions with the boot are converted into the on-screen real time graphics driven by PRESS, BEND, and TWIST actions.

After succesfull launch event of Nemeziz brand in June, yesterday installation premiered in the new color range at the Tango League event in London.

And as of today is installed in:
Berlin – 11Teamsports
Milan – Calcioshop
Recklinghausen – Teamsport Philipp

Miniminter @Shard

Miniminter went up the Shard to try out our latest VR experience. Over 1,7 million youtube views in 10 days.

Tech Insider @Shard

https://www.facebook.com/TechInsiderUK/videos/689383474602375/?fref=mentions

Adidas: Nemeziz Launch Event

Short video summarizing our achievements during Nemeziz Launch Event. Full case study to follow up!

Adidas: Nemeziz Launch Event

Very excited and proud of my biggest project this year! World’s first interactive boot! Users create their own audio-visual experience by manipulating the shoe. Installation was open to public at the Nemeziz launch party. Big thanks to everybody who worked on it! More to come! Updates will follow up!

Throwback: Saatchi Sculpture Award 2012

By me at the age of 18.

5 years ago this baby won Saatchi Student Award

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LegoVR Headset: Behind the Scenes

Design process of the one of its kind VR headset built from Lego pieces. Finish product can be seen here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graduation Show Chelsea College of Art & Design

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First Class Honours (1st)

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Mushroom Paper Business Cards

I created samples of mushroom paper in the form of business cards to give away to viewers during the show.

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Degree Show Flyer

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Visualisation of my plinth for the Graduate Show at Chelsea College of Art&Design.

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University Blog (Full Year 3)