The Oculist Reason VR Installation

This collaboration was an experimental artwork that brought together video art, documentary film making and virtual reality.

Brief:

Liverpool’s digital arts organisation FACT approached Draw & Code about collaborating on an ambitious piece with Australian video artist Lauren Moffatt as part of the EMARE exchange programme.

The idea behind the Oculist Reason was to explore the transference of a real physical space into a digital world. To create Lauren’s vision we would need to use some unusual techniques and technologies in what could be the first video of its kind.

Process:

The collaborative process started just across the courtyard here at 24 Hardman Street where the historic former School for the Blind was undergoing a major transformation. During this phase of renovation the building was looking likely to lose the stunning mural painted in 1986 by Mick Jones. In a first of its kind, we set out to record the space using mixed media while Lauren also documented the experiences and memories of people to whom the space and the painting is held dear.

Our starting point was to accurately scan the space in the rotunda to build an accurately scaled 3D environment. This 3D world was textured in a unique way – using images captured by a 1960s 16mm camera. So often we associate the patina of the filming technology with the a certain era; this juxtaposition of 3D scanning with grainy film footage seemed like the ideal way to evoke the feel of the Blind School in its pomp.

Once the environment was coming together Lauren sat down to interview key people in the life of the space. This recording was made using Microsoft’s Kinect v2 scanner to enable the interviewees to appear as ghostly 3D avatars within the virtual experience.

Result:

Part artwork, part digital heritage piece, part documentary – The Oculist Reason was presented in Liverpool and Berlin. The viewer explored the space using an Oculus Rift headset housed within a stunning multi-speaker 3D sound installation created by Kinicho, this was a unique and challenging project that posed questions about whether digital archiving and virtual reality is the future of heritage.


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