DOORS is VR screen shot

VR and art

Many more artists could begin to blend VR with art to enhance the viewer’s appreciation.

Read more about all aspects of Virtual Reality technology

Have you ever peered closely at your favourite painting and wished you could see beyond what was in the piece, or just wanted there to be more in it? Ever wanted to get inside, experience the atmosphere, the sights and the sounds first hand?That could be a lot closer to reality than you think.

Museums and galleries are beginning to embrace VR to create new and exciting experiences for visitors, injecting new life into an already magnificent form of human expression.

VR technology is becoming easier to produce, and many companies are dabbling. It may be easy to create VR, but it’s very difficult to create beautiful VR.

However, that is exactly what some creative types are trying to achieve: artistic, visually stunning VR and, so far, they have been quite successful.

‘Dreams of Dali’ is an exhibition running until June 2016 in the Dali Museum in Florida, USA. One of the most celebrated and eccentric artists of all time, Salvador Dali captured his imaginings with a quality that spikes a desire to look beyond the 2D surface. ‘Dreams’ does just that. Using VR technology, they have created an experience unlike any other. Visitors put themselves in a fully immersive 3D environment and explore Dali’s 1935 painting, Archaeological Reminiscence of Millet’s ‘Angelus’, using Oculus Rift. It feels as if you are in the mind of the master himself. Watch the 360-degree video here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1eLeIocAcU

Another installation literally opens the door to the VR world, and it doesn’t require headsets. ‘Doors’ from Théoriz studio (www.theoriz.com) is an interactive, portal-like piece created to start a conversation about shared VR experiences. It almost bridges the connection between the real world and the virtual one. David-Alexandre Chanel, creator of ‘Doors’, says that “when it comes to Doors, our work is focusing on blurring and questioning the limit between reality and virtuality.

“This is already present in lots of forms of art and was present before the whole enthusiasm about VR. Our line of work is focusing on experience.”

Kathy Greif, marketing director of the Dali museum, says the best use of VR is to create experiences, “something that evokes a physical feeling, and preferably something you literally can’t do in reality.

“My favourite part [of Dreams of Dali] is the elephants - you stare in awe as these giant, graceful, surreal animals move right across your path.

“This just can’t be experienced in real life - this is what VR was made for.”

VR is on the rise and is starting to embrace the possibilities of digital art and mixed realities. One could question whether VR art will become a movement in itself, but Chanel doubts it: “I don’t think VR can become an art movement, just like an art movement is not defined by a technology but by its use,” he says.

Greif says that “in the end, [Dreams of Dali] certainly is breathtaking, but its intention wasn’t to create ‘art’, it was to create a new way of looking at, and appreciating, art”.

However, Oculus Story Studio has ventured into actually creating art using their VR technology; more specifically their Oculus Quill, which was previewed at Sundance in 2015. You can select colours and brushes using the controllers and motion cameras from Oculus Touch. Users can motion in the air using their arms and the movement appears on the 3D canvas.

‘Dear Angelica’, a short VR film from Oculus Story Studio, was created by artist Wesley Allsbrook, who named the Quill after Inigo Quilez, a VFX supervisor for Oculus. The 3D film encapsulates what VR and art can achieve, with Allsbrook’s motion and fluidity with the Quill an art performance in itself. See the video here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbzbX9F6Lhs

Quill is similar to Google’s Tilt Brush app, but Oculus has yet to publicly release the new VR art tool. However it may inspire a new medium of art, with infinite possibilities.

With all the activity and advances in technology, what does this mean for the future of VR and its relationship to the art world? Greif believes that “progressive museums are leveraging technology to create unique experiences for their visitors - both onsite and online. I think the critical thing is to not use technology for technology’s sake, but to consider how to blend it with art to enhance the experience or create a new one”.

Chanel concurs: “As there is nowadays a big interest in VR, it is more likely that an artist will produce more artwork or get inspired by VR, as we did for Doors.

“It’s also interesting to note that VR can be part of an artistic piece, but through helmets like Oculus Rift, can also be used as a tool to visit virtual exhibitions, as it’s already been done through the Internet or video games.

“It’s not safe, though, to say that [VR] is going to be a ‘real’ industry. That depends on many more parameters.”

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