This weekend my friend Daksh Sahni invited me to shoot my first spherical video for Virtual Reality using a camera ball with ten gopros attached to it. The idea was to capture his friend Yana Clark performing with her mirror suit at dusk by the ocean.
The suit reflected beams of light from the sun in every direction while Yana explored the rocky shore alone. It was a beautiful sight.
This is the first time I get to experience the weird nature of 360 degree video. You see, when you’re doing this, you’re basically capturing every direction at the same time; front, left right, top, back and bottom, the 360 camera rig sees it all, so no film crew can be around the scene while the camera is rolling. Everybody that is not in the scene has to find a hiding place and disappear.
Coincidentally, Yana is the great granddaughter of Lygia Clark, who did some early work in VR art. Lygia’s most relavant work in connection to VR is her mirrored spectacles from 1967: (see attached image and an excerpt from Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica: A Legacy of Interactivity and Participationfor a Telematic Future, an essay by Simone Osthoff):
Curiously, Ivan Sutherland’s pioneering work with virtual reality, developed around the same time, was based on the introduction of the related concept of head-mounted displays. The visual and cultural parallels between these and other investigations in art and science are as significant as they are unexplored. As Myron Krueger has pointed out, “Many aspects of virtual reality including full-body participation, the idea of a shared telecommunication space, multi-sensory feedback, third-person participation, unencumbered approaches, and the data glove, all came from the arts, not from the technical community”
Clark’s experiences tend to merge the body’s interior and exterior spaces, stressing the direct connection between the body’s physical and psychological dimensions. The pure optical emphasis of her geometric abstract paintings from the 1950s are transformed by Nostalgia of the Body into sensory explorations of texture, weight, scale, temperature, sound and movement. These sensations are the basis of a non-verbal language employed both in processes of self-discovery and collective explorations among a group of participants. There is a significant conceptual link between these collective explorations and the characteristic of telecommunications art Roy Ascott calls “distributed authorship.” Clark’s collective creations became her main focus during the period she lived in Paris
Clark is commemorated as a pioneer, first of interactive art and then of participatory performance—themes that are everywhere these days. But without a better sense of the thorny drama of her biography, it’s easy to forget, today, in a world of social media and flash mobs, Google Glass and Oculus Rift, that the dissolution of “art into life” was a truly radical art theme of the ’60s and ’70s, one of the ways which fine art and the counterculture merged into one gumbo in the churning cauldron of a decade of political cataclysms.