Into the Forest, OpenEnded Group

Real Virtuality

January 15–June 12, 2011

The six installations in this exhibition were created by artists and technologists with backgrounds in architecture, painting, filmmaking, video art, and software engineering. They have in common their use of technologies developed for the digital entertainment industries. These installations employ video game engines, motion- and position-tracking, stereoscopic (3-D) digital video, and sophisticated image processing software to create simulated worlds that extend, augment, or disrupt the physical environment of the Museum space.

Guided tours: Every Saturday and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., 30 minutes

Real Virtuality has been made possible by generous support from the 2007 Rockefeller Foundation Cultural Innovation Fund and BARCO. Special thanks to Bulldog Interiors.

RealTime UnReal, Workspace Unlimited, 2011 »
Thomas Soetens (b. 1972, Ghent, Belgium; lives in Montreal), and Kora Van den Bulcke (b.1972, Ghent, Belgium; lives in Montreal)
World premiere, commissioned by Museum of the Moving Image

Two stereoscopic projections on a double-sided silver screen, circular polarized filters and 3-D glasses, stereoscopic cameras, infrared movement tracking system, customized Quake III game engine

Workspace Unlimited was founded in Belgium in 2001 by visual artist Thomas Soetens and architect Kora Van den Bulcke. To realize their projects, Soetens and Van den Bulcke work with a team that includes software programmers Matthew McChesney and Patrick Bergeron, as well as an international network of researchers, architects, artists, sound designers, composers, writers, animators, and 3-D artists.

Workspace Unlimited’s projects are concerned with the relationship between public space and virtual environments. Using immersive digital and virtual reality technologies, their work explores ways in which architecture and our experience of space can be augmented and reshaped.

RealTime UnReal allows the viewer to enter simulated and imagined spaces inspired by the Museum’s architecture. The artists refer to this seamless overlay of the Museum’s physical space with an identically scaled virtual counterpart as “hybrid space.” The virtual spaces are rendered simultaneously in multiple perspectives and contain live video of visitors in the physical space. Custom-made software uses data captured from overhead cameras to track the position of one person at a time as he or she walks around the screen. Others may observe from the periphery of the interaction zone.

Support for RealTime UnReal has been provided by BARCO, IBBT (the Interdisciplinary Institute for Broadband Technology), Stewart Filmscreen, the Flemish Authorities, the Flemish Minister of Culture, and the Flemish Minister of Innovation.

NOTE: 3-D glasses must be worn in order to experience this work

Into the Forest, OpenEnded Group, 2011 »
Marc Downie (b. 1977, Aberdeen, UK; lives in Chicago), Shelley Eshkar (b. 1970, New York City; lives in New York City), and Paul Kaiser (b. 1956, Munich; lives in New York City).
World premiere, commissioned by Museum of the Moving Image

Stereoscopic projection onto circular screen, polarized filters and 3-D glasses, Kinect camera-based motion capture system, Field visual programming software

OpenEnded Group is a collective consisting of Paul Kaiser, Shelley Eshkar, and Marc Downie who create works for dance performances, art galleries, and public spaces. They are concerned with the choreography of human motion, examined through the use of motion capture technology.

Kaiser spent ten years teaching children with severe learning disabilities, encouraging them to create multimedia animations. Eshkar has a background in illustration and animation. Downie received his doctorate in the application of artificial intelligence to synthetic characters. Since 2002, the group has created all of its work with Field, their open-source software.

Into the Forest immerses the visitor in a 3-D landscape populated by virtual children playing a game of hide-and-seek. When a visitor steps under the spotlight, his or her image is captured and inserted into the landscape. Movements of other characters in the forest are derived from a library of more than 400 motions, originally enacted by two performers.

Music composed and performed by Tom Chiu (violin). Voices by 1B first graders at The School at Columbia University under the supervision of Sheila O’Shea. Sound design by Terry Pender. Motions performed by Emily Martinez and Shelley Eshkar. Motion capture by Perspective Studios.

Support for prior work underlying Into the Forest provided by Dancing in the Streets, the Greenwall Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Circular screen fabricated by Bulldog Interiors.

NOTE: 3-D glasses must be worn in order to experience this work

Augmented Sculpture, Pablo Valbuena, 2007 »
Pablo Valbuena (b. 1978, Madrid; lives in Madrid and France)
US Premiere

Video projection onto sculptural object

Pablo Valbuena’s artwork creates a virtual layer—or skin—that is projected onto a physical base that already exists, such as a building façade or interior, or is created by the artist himself. After receiving a degree in architecture, Valbuena was involved in the development of computer-generated environments for film and digital media.

Augmented Sculpture, created in 2007, is among Valbuena’s earliest works. Since 2008, Valbuena has created public art installations of different scales in Europe, Latin America, and Asia. His outdoor works have been projected onto buildings and public spaces including the City Hall in The Hague, Netherlands (2008), the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico D.F. (2010), the Vooruit Art Center in Ghent, Belgium (2010), and the Plaza de las Letras/Medialab-Prado in Madrid (2007).

Sculpture fabricated by Bulldog Interiors

The Night Journey, Bill Viola, work in progress »
Bill Viola (b. 1951, New York City; lives in Los Angeles)
Created in collaboration with game designer Tracy Fullerton and the University of Southern California Electronic Arts Game Innovation Lab
New York Premiere

PC-based experimental video game, Playstation 2 controller

Bill Viola has been a leader in the establishment of video as a vital form of contemporary art. For forty years he has created single-channel videos, video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, and videos for broadcast television, operas, and religious spaces. His works focus on universal human experiences—birth, death, the unfolding of consciousness—and have roots in both Eastern and Western art, as well as spiritual traditions.

The Night Journey is Viola’s first interactive project. It was created in collaboration with Tracy Fullerton, director of the USC Electronic Arts Game Innovation Lab and founder of the game company Spiderdance. The Night Journey applies the structure and conventions of the video game to themes found in Viola’s noninteractive work. Viola, Fullerton, and staff from the Game Innovation Lab developed custom video processing technologies to adapt the Bushido 3-D game engine to Viola’s signature visual style.

To experience The Night Journey, players move through the game’s three primary environments—characterized by desert, water, and forest—looking for unique features in the landscape in order to find objects. Once found, an object reveals an otherwise invisible dimension of itself. One’s ability to progress through the game environment and where one is permitted to go are determined by the amount and type of objects found.

Funding for The Night Journey was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Annenberg Center at USC. Additional support was provided by Intel and the ZeroOne Art and Technology Network.

Game and visual effects programmed by Todd Furmanski. Art direction by Kurosh ValaNejad. Concept art and visualizations by Andreas Kratky. Character animation by Richard Almodovar. 3-D art by Mike Rossmassler.

RMB City, Cao Fei, 2008–11 »
Cao Fei (b. 1978, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China; lives in Beijing)
Developed in collaboration with Vitamin Creative Space

Online virtual art community developed within Second Life and projected onto curved screen with customized 3-D mouse interface, Flash-based video game projected onto curved screen with custom body board interface, three single-channel videos

Cao Fei explores the discrepancies between dream and reality in today’s hyper-capitalist China, exemplifying elements of discontent and disillusionment found in China’s younger generations.

RMB City was launched in late 2008 as a laboratory for experiments in creative arts, architecture, politics, and economics. It has since been augmented by artistic projects made within it, including a series of videos, an opera, and, to mark the culmination of the project, a video game. Acknowledging China’s recent history, RMB City’s architecture references ancient and modern Chinese icons, from the panda to the Beijing National Stadium constructed for the 2008 Olympics. Cao Fei has a Second Life avatar, China Tracy, who acts as a guide, philosopher, and tourist.

RMB City, 2008-11
Second Life software has been adapted to allow Museum visitors to explore RMB City using a 3-D mouse.

Surf RMB City
World premiere
Visitors can surf through a version of RMB City that has been submerged in water.
Customized interface developed by Friedrich Kirschner and Hannah Perner-Wilson

The Birth of RMB City, 2009
Video, 10 mins.
Courtesy of RMB City © 2009

Tonight Live with Paisley Beebe, 2009
Featuring China Tracy
Video, January 11, 2009, 13 mins.
Courtesy of © 2009

Live in RMB City, 2009
Video, 25 mins.
Courtesy of RMB City © 2009

Cathedral, Marco Brambilla, 2008 »
Marco Brambilla (b. 1960, Milan, Italy; lives in New York City), 9 mins.
Courtesy of Christopher Grimes Gallery and the Artist

Single-channel video

Marco Brambilla creates looping video artworks by applying digital processing techniques to captured film and video footage.

Films are a source of inspiration and raw material for Brambilla’s video art. For Sync (2006), he joined thousands of split-second clips from hundreds of films to create a fluid sequence of motion. His more recent collage-based works are meant to evoke styles of religious painting. For example, Civilization (2010), currently looping in the elevators of New York’s Standard Hotel, uses rotoscoped footage from Hollywood films to depict a journey from hell to heaven and back.

Cathedral was filmed at the Toronto Eaton Centre megamall during the 2007 Christmas shopping season. Over 150 hours of high definition footage was shot with camcorders placed inconspicuously throughout the mall. Brambilla then used compositing and rotoscoping techniques to join imagery recorded from different angles, focal lengths, and perspectives into a single, kaleidoscopic video tableau.


The Night Journey, Bill Viola

Cathedral, Marco Brambilla

RMB City, Cao Fei

Augmented Sculpture, Pablo Valbuena

RealTime UnReal, Workspace Unlimited