What was the reason behind the choice to use rocks as the central motif?
To portray rocks was a deliberate choice from the beginning when I first conceptualised the project. Rocks are the most ancient, organic form existing naturally; it’s existence predates our Homo Sapien ancestors, Neanderthals or other life forms.
It has also been found that rocks are where the history of humanity was first recorded; through rock drawing, or cave art as it has often been classified. Inside these caves we find the earliest form of record making. Since then, we as a species have advanced immensely, from discovering fire to inventing tools aiding survival. Curiously all these advancements relate directly to rocks.
How do you view the relationship between rocks, the most ancient form, and virtual reality, the latest of invented technology?
I believe we are now at a critical moment, standing on the verge of a technological cliff. We have a choice to make. We can continue forward into the unknown abyss and take our chances of where digital and virtual technology will lead us, or we can turn our glance back and feed our innate desire for the natural world and its nostalgia. Or perhaps, virtual reality (VR) is able to allow both?
In my project I attempted to use VR to trigger memories, to awaken our senses and broaden our consciousness of living in a tech driven era. I wanted the VR experience to permit viewers a way to return to a technology-less consciousness, ironically aided by technology. This is another reason for the choice of the rock. Many viewers were fascinated upon virtually entering the inside of the rock and being able to explore it. We are aware it is fake yet the fascination does not subside. Virtual reality has allowed us to break a physical boundary and enter the inside as well as walk through a rock, feeding a child-like curiosity. The reaction I observed from viewers was not only beyond age, but religion, race and gender. As humans we all have this sense of curiosity and wonder inside, and virtual reality permitted its awakening.
You have mentioned Kandinsky as a point of reference. Could you explain this further?
I am indeed inspired and influenced by Kandinsky and his manifesto, Concerning the Spiritual in Art is an important point of reference for me. Kandinsky spoke of an inter- and outer- relationship with the world and his desire to explore a new dimension beyond they physical. One of his early works, Red Dot II, attempted to use different forms to break through to this fourth dimension. While pen and paper is the oldest form of expression, VR simply permits us to more readily enter this new dimension Kandinsky was already exploring a hundred years ago.
Written and spoken language is also a barrier. It affects our ideas and thoughts. Language can also disappear if it is not passed on down the generations as it has many times in history. But our innate senses, as Kandinsky alluded to and attempted to express, does not require language to communicate. If anything, our innate senses are the common language among all humanity.
So what is it you hope the VR experience you’ve created will do for viewers?
The entire VR realm is an illusion. I created it with the aid of dgital and virtual programming, resulting in endless possibilities inside the realm. This is why even now sometimes I discover new perspectives of the rocks inside my own work. I intend for the VR to be a way by which we can expand our consciousness. It permits a kind of out of body experience, to feel like we are floating in air and to be able to enter spaces in the lapse of a single second.
It is not a game. The point is to awaken people. Games put us to sleep. The technology of VR should be an inspiration for creation, not just to establish a singular path, or dictating the way signals are received. In my work I want you to explore, like a child.
Why did you choose to begin the project from a pigment and ink painting?
I conceptualized the whole project as a trans-media, trans-time project. Paper and brush is directly related to our cultural roots. It is also a technology in its own right. The invention of paper and brush were high points in the history of humanity. Going straight from hypothetical idea to VR would omit this linkage to the roots of our past. It would be like trying to grow a tree without first putting down and nurturing the seeds.
And the decision for the next steps in your conceptualisation where the video work, which many viewers were captivated by. Why do you think this is so?
The video was produced in the same step as creating the original painting. In a way I wanted to place the audience in my shoes, to see and feel (as much as a video work permitted) my painting as a methodical process. Yes the strokes and movement are beautiful but watching the process of a painting come to life is also quietly meditative, which directly reflects my painting process as a meditative practice for myself. It is perhaps why the video is mesmerising to watch, viewers connect to the video whether it is consciously or subconsciously.
Tell us a bit more about the 3D printed sculpture. We know many visitors were intrigued by it.
The 3D printed sculpture of the floating rock was part of my concept all along. The nature of 3D sculpture questions materiality. The rock is made entirely of paper, some 1,100 sheets to be exact and printed over an approximately five day period. The printing technology allows for such detailed rendering that we beg the question if it may be real yet our logic sets us straight that it is the outcome of a technology and an illusion just like the VR experience is.
The final step, after the VR experience, was a return to the two-dimensional with your prints capturing the realm inside the VR. Why is this important?
We are living in what I believe is a multi-dimensional era, we cannot simply define our time as analogue, digital or virtual. It is a mesh of every technology carving its own place at the same time. I believe VR is essentially a transition of a virtual-physical world. In the past we often talk about polarities, but not everything is happening simultaneously. In this way, the deliberate choice to create prints generated from VR is to allude to this very point.