Virtual Reality Residencies

Challenging artists to make three-dimensional art in virtual reality

Posted on 7th February 2018

Written by Lee Nicholls

In September 2017, we challenged some of Nottingham's most talented artists to test their skills in virtual reality.

Over the past year we've seen many examples of artists working and experimenting with virtual reality. There have been artist residency programmes, high profile arts organisations adopting VR as a medium for new work, new platforms for showcasing and researching artist-led VR experiences, how-to guides, and exhibitions.

We set out to offer a short series of public events that would provoke discussions about how artists might use VR in their everyday practice. We wanted to:

  • Give local artists and the public the opportunity to experience making artwork in virtual reality without the high cost barrier to entry.
  • See if current VR applications aimed at artists interested them and how easy, or difficult, it was to translate their talents over to a new medium. 
  • Find out if artists thought VR could be a potential new tool/medium/platform to add to their practice.

We teamed up with our friends The Anti Gallery, a Nottingham-based pop-up arts organisation who celebrate urban culture by creating experiences outside of traditional gallery spaces, to offer a series of three short residencies here at Broadway.

On Saturdays throughout September, we invited artists to experiment with new technology and techniques to create three-dimensional art in virtual reality. With support from VR tutor Jon Cooke, they tried several applications designed to emulate arts practices and to show how real-world techniques have been transferred to VR. We focused on using Tilt Brush, a Google-developed application for painting in 3D space.

The artists experimented with Tilt Brush in public view in Broadway's Mezzanine Lounge. Their work was also livestreamed online, so viewers could watch their work progress throughout the day from anywhere.

Audiences at Broadway were also invited to 'step inside' the artworks that were created and try painting in Tilt Brush themselves.

Insights

We were able to take a fairly hands-off approach to teaching the basics of the software. This is partly because of Tilt Brush's intuitive design and partly because the three artists learned the (fairly complex) controls, toolset and limitations of Tilt Brush faster than we imagined they would. 

We gave the artists time to experiment with the variety of options available and tackle problems in their own time, only jumping in with advice when what they wanted to achieve wasn't apparent or caused frustration.

We discussed how it felt to be learning to use a new tool, after becoming so well-versed in their usual practices (which includes street art, illustration, graphic design). The experience was compared to feeling like when they were first learning to make art on computers with a keyboard and mouse. It was mentioned that Tilt Brush feels like making VR art at "Microsoft Paint level". Playful and messy. We discussed what it could be like in future — when it's at "Photoshop level". Would it be taken more seriously as a medium?

It's important for artists to be using new tools and technology, so they can drive the conversations around it, and pioneer ways of working with it.

We found that the artists enjoyed the experience and were satisified with what they made in such a short space of time. We discussed how arts organisations could give artists more opportunities to try new technology, without the high barriers to entry usually involved — cost, space, support.

Resident Artists

Kid30

Prolific midlands based artist kid30 (smallkid) has been painting graffiti for well over a decade. He is well known for his cleanly painted bold characters. His unique and instantly recognisable bold style are prominent on the streets of the UK, and have been seen as far afield as Melbourne, Toronto and Barcelona

kid30.smallkid.co.uk

THEHONEYEFFECT

Renaissance woman slash creative entity, Singer Songwriter, Choir Director of the Gang of Angels, Artist, Graphic Designer and Image Activist. Honey Williams (aka THEHONEYEFFECT) runs Contemporary Natural Hair by The Pickyheads, a group focusing on increasing the love for women of African descent throughout the diaspora via discussion, all forms of artistic expression and events.

thehoneyeffect.wordpress.com

Scarce

Matt Vardy (aka Scarce) is a street artist and illustrator with Nottingham's Mimm Collective.

instagram.com/_scarce_

The Anti Gallery

The Anti Gallery is a pop-up art gallery inspired by and celebrating urban culture. Creating, engaging & exhibiting within alternative art gallery environments.

They curate and produce exhibitions, host film screenings, facilitate workshops and participate in conversations about art and activism.

If you would like to work with them or find out more about what they do get in touch at theantigallery.co.uk.

The Virtual Reality Residencies were part of our public workshops series, supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

Banner image by THEHONEYEFFECT.

Videos by George Mapp.

Author

Lee Nicholls

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