Immersive Art: Creators Preview

Young woman wearing a virtual reality headset.

Immersive Art: Creators Preview

Immersive Art: Creators Preview 1024 683 Frank McDermott

Creators and Creations

XR art is a vibrant, exhilarating, and broadly encompassing leap forward in how humankind experiences  itself. It provides dazzling visuals that engross and engage. It creates spaces for empathy and exploration. It reconsiders how art is valued and shared. And, to our great thrill, its contours are at this point only barely explored.

While this papers only serves as a high-level survey of how widely the phrase “XR Art” can be deployed, Caravan seeks to broaden your consideration of how innovators and establishment figures alike are staking flags along the digital horizon.

Of course, there’s more to XR art than just putting on a headset and watching a short film. The manners and forms in which XR artists are creating are themselves evolving along with the technology they use to produce their creations. To that end, having a basic literacy about XR art means understanding it to be fundamentally without a set definition, as evidenced by how varied virtual art has been executed. As Penrose Studios head Eugene Chung tells Artsy, “You have to basically define the medium as you go. It’s almost like you’re trying to create the paintbrush while trying to create a painting.” 

In Section 1, we’ll explore three different ways to categorize XR art. While they intersect, the technologies, practitioners, exhibitions and histories of each provide important delineations. Let us begin.

Art made with virtual tools in virtual spaces to be observed wholly as a standalone work, requiring special viewing apparatus

Anna Zhilyaeva, @Annadreambrush on Instagram, is a popular Tilt Brush artist who captures the process of creating virtual art in widely viewed videos. Some of her works are wholly original and sculpture-like, while others extend the canvas of existing material art and paintings to extrapolate the scene beyond its original borders. While the creations can be viewed in two dimensions through her prepared videos, a virtual reality headset lets a viewer enter the entirety of the three dimensional space she prepares.

It should be noted that this sort of immersive experience can be created by a number of technologies. Tilt Brush is a tool/application that takes advantage of the relationship between a physical hand controller and the virtual space running in the app, allowing the creator to build a virtual space through physical movement using a ‘brush’ and ‘palette’ to select colors, shapes and materials. This method calls to mind traditional means of art creation. 

Alternatively, virtual spaces can be built via keyboard, mouse and code using graphic applications like Unity. As opposed to the virtual in media res style adopted by Tilt Brush users, creating virtual spaces in Unity happens exterior to that reality, although it can be just as immersive when the application is fed into a user’s headset. An excellent look at how such a project can be undertaken can be found in this post about reactive installations by Isaac Cohen, celebrated virtual reality artist and Unity VR Artist in Residence. 

Man experiencing VR Art exhibition To The Moon

Since the tooling varies from physically- driven painterly controls to computer code, the production of XR art can frequently be a collaborative affair between artists working in a directorial capacity with technicians executing the production of the artist’s vision. An example of such collaborative work is To The Moon, an immersive art piece created by NASA Artist in Residence Laurie Anderson and her co-creator Hsin-Chien Huang. While the previously mentioned works can be experienced at a user’s own home provided they have the files and equipment necessary to do so, Anderson and Huang’s three collaborations have required a user to attend a physical gallery location. 

To assist with the technical creation of digital Fine Art, entire content creation firms have begun to engage artists directly – one of which is Acute Art:

“‘Our role is to provide artists with the technical capacity to realize their visions,’ says Acute Art CEO Jacob De Geer, adding that the process can take months, if not years, depending on an artist’s fluency in alternative media such as multichannel video and how developed their vision for a given piece may be. Kapoor’s Into Yourself—Fall, he says, took some 10 months from conceptualization to completion.” – Robb Report

On the horizon, Adobe is planning to release a new app for its Creative Cloud – Aero. Aero is intended to uncouple dense technical knowledge and the ability to create rich augmented reality experiences. Verge, an online tech news periodical, describes it as an app that “…lets artists use drag-and-drop modules to create animations and responsive AR experiences that automatically take into account factors like physics and lighting, which would normally require knowledge of programs like Unity and Apple’s ARKit.” Adobe’s apps are industry-standard tools for professional media creation, so the promise of Aero isn’t to be minimized, especially if it is released as part of the Creative Cloud. In that event, Adobe CC’s over-10 million subscribers would have easy access to powerful technology, lowering the barrier of entry. This is an important step forward in reducing the time investment and other costs of creating AR experiences.

In regard to user engagement with this content, hardware and dedicated apps can have a chilling effect on adoption, and are obstacles Adobe is approaching head-on. First, the filetype produced by Aero can be used natively on a user’s phone in existing apps, rather than requiring the download or purchase of proprietary software. Further, Project Glasswing is Adobe’s experimental translucent surface specifically designed to display AR content over physical product displays. With these innovations in mind, Adobe is clearly investing in a much wider pervasion of AR content for users to engage with in the coming months and years.

Caravan has worked with some of the largest art institutions in the world to sell millions of dollars of art and art merchandise online.

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If you want to check out the first installment in the series, check it out here: