In The Garden was created as a collaboration between myself, Jonathan Ng, and Julia Engelhart. It is a VR installation composed of two still lives, a digital one and a physical one. They are intrinsically tied to one another. The physical still life is composed of 5 large paper pulp sculptures. Each physical sculpture controls its digital counterpart in another, virtual, still life via wireless communication.
The digital scene is projected over the blank canvases of the the sculptures from a low height. This means that in order to change either scene, which viewers are invited to do, they must interrupt the projection and they themselves become implicated in both the digital and physical landscape. The large white sides of the sculptures pick up the color and images from the digital scene projected on them and blur the distinction of the two throughout the experience.
In the video to the left Julia arranges a piece of the physical still life, and at the same time moves that piece's digital counter part in real time. Their movement together and the independent still lives they create are a carefully facilitated serendipity.
In The Garden began as an sketchbook exploration of a few destroyed building. While examining their ruins Julia found herself making new landscapes out of the parts that were left, using their accidental forms to create new intentional still lives.
At this point I became interested in Julia’s act of translation from physical 3d remnants to 2d sketches. In that transformation they took on new qualities such as line width, color, texture, and so on. I began to wonder what other mediums we could translate this landscape to. I suggested we explore the immersive field of VR in an attempt to bring back a kind of physicality they had lost in their previous translation.
In a second translation we created the objects depicted in Julia’s original sketches as foam and paper pulp sculptures. The sculptures themselves had quite the visual presences, some being almost 5 feet tall, but more importantly they began to cover with on another. A sculpture would lean on another like an old friend at a bar, another would lie down watched over by the others. They felt like old friends reunited. We were surprised by these abnormals sculptures inclination to be anthropomorphized. We arranged them in new still lives to create more and more translations.
They were also deceptively light, each weighing only a few pounds at most and deceptively strong, resisting scratches and chipping. As we arranged them over and over into new landscapes we started to think of them as controllers. I proposed that they themselves, a landscape in their own right, could be used to make new digital landscapes. These landscapes could draw on the sketches and previous translations culminating in a kind of garden. This lead to the final translation, virtual reality.
The digital landscape spawned directly out of the sculptures. I envisioned a extra attribute that these sculptures might have, just like they have a size, a heigh, a weight, they might also have a network aura. We thought of them as liquid ideas taking the best form they could in the medium they were rendered. That is to say they took advantage of the affordances of drawings by having vivid colors and impossible angles, they took advantage of the physical plane by having complex and supple volumes, and they could take advantage of their new digital translation by achieving supernatural sizes shapes and movements.
Some of the sculpture's digital projections are several stories tall, some are made of impossible materials, and all of them are covered in textures from Julia’s original sketchbook. The scene they create is meant to remind the viewer of ruins or pherhaps a garden of strange flowers just after sunset.