The Language of Man II – Tangible Virtual Reality Art

I attended the opening of Language of Man II at the knoerle & baettig gallery in Winterthur and it sort of blew my mind. The opening featured Jay Shinn and Pard Morrison, their works focused on 3D imagery, realized in more traditional art mediums of painting and sculpture, rather than pure projection video art or a combination of the Oculus Rift or Kinect cameras (topics had been freely flowing through my mind lately).

LanguageOfMan_II-08406Jay Shinn

Jay’s works look simple, but I got a bit entranced with them and pulled into the perfection between virtual objects and…reality. Jay’s painting-projections are really more installations than paintings, he paints geometric forms on the walls, then projection is overlaid via a spot light from across the room. The projections add the perception of 3D depth to the 2D painting, so when you look at it, it feels like a 3D sculpture, or virtual object in a virtual reality (VR) world. It feels that way, but you’re still standing in grounded reality in the gallery. I loved these works on multiple levels.

With the killer graphics of console games, mobile devices, and the rise of VR goggles like the Occulus Rift, we’re moving (as a society) towards a world where the physical artefacts of our existence will be continually blurred. The mind does not differentiate from reality and fantasy on a biochemical level, it’s only when we pinch ourselves, and believe in the tactile response of our fingers connecting to our skin and the associated quick whisp of pain that we are assured of being awake and not asleep or immersed in a viral place. It makes me think of how people can get pulled into, and interact with elements in the virtual worlds more comfortably than the real one.

Too see how Jay creates his installations, check out the video below:

LanguageOfMan_II-08414Pard Morrison

The works from Pard mainly included sculptures (I’ll call them than), three-dimensional, the pieces are fired pigment on Aluminum, and remind me of the Space Invaders street art (and imitations) I saw while visiting the street art show at the Musée de La Poste back in Dec. 2012 (and from touring the city). The work from Pard seems to fit together perfectly with the projection paintings from Jay.

I like the space invader tiles (and the copies) since street art is generally sort of non-linear like graffiti or stencils, and then the space invader tiles are see on the walls all nicely ordered and perfect. Plus, they are little 3D sculptures, coming out of the city instead of feeling like ideas overlaid on walls. Lovecloud in particular was a tad mesmerising to look at. You have the feeling of chaotic forces of nature nicely ordered in 3D blocks. If you move in you see the brush strokes alongside the hard geometric lines that separate each colour square.


As an artist-scientist with a  background in photography and a passion for street art, I’m often jumping between different mediums. One day it’s the meaning behind data sets, another it’s skin pores on high-resolution portraits, the day after it might be a film project, or painting on large canvases. From the tech side I’ve been experimenting with virtual and augmented reality projects, the RGBD Toolkit, Kinect cameras, use cases for the Oculus Rift, or interactive sculptures with an embeded Arduino or maybe a robot with a Rasperry Pi.

At Language of Man II…I loved, simply loved forgetting all of that and focusing on the realism of Pard’s 3D perfect geometry clouds and Jay’s real-world 3D projections. The Language of Man II was a fabulous and unexpected immersion experience for me, pulling me out of my focus on 3D animation and projection art (sparked by visiting the SMK open-data hackathon), and opened up this perspective of the real virtual world. Whatever the true impact will be for my future is still unknown. But, that’s the wonderful thing about stepping into a modern art gallery in Winterthur like knoerle & baettig without expectations or preconceptions of what you’ll find there.

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