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Laval Virtual Art: A Promising Start

Gwendoline Bachini. Click for the video.

Apr 4. 2018. RectoVR_So, In and Off. See the list of artists and works.

- See our resume of the program.
- See Diccan's posts and references about Laval.
- See comments by Le Point (from an AFP mail).

This spring was an important challenge for virtual reality in general, and more specifically, for Laval as a "VR Avignon" and for the headsets (goggles) as a medium for art.

1. Was Laval able to grow again on the industrial and art side ? The answer is yes, with a much larger exposition surface and the new Recto_Vr_So show all over the city, from the "In" space on the Chateauneuf square to each and every cultural places in the town.

The price of headsets will be a keypoint. Here the HTC Vive (some 600 euros).

2. Are the headsets (or goggles) technically able to offer artists a really new field, new media ? This question is still under debate. Specialists agree on a promisive future but still unclear. The 3D cinema did not prove a success, in spite of some high quality and strongly 3D films like Avatar.
We face here several difficulties:
- High quality headsets, like the HTC Vive remain expensive (more than 600 euros) and Microsoft Hololens (more than 5000 euros). With the other headsets, the resolution is to low, and so more so for spectators now accustomed to the quality of 4D TV. Good cameras are also required to produce images other than synthetic.
- With the other headsets, artists will have to develop contents more driven by psychology (for instance in the line of "immersion deph" developed in the PhD thesis of Judith Guez. This could inspire new kind of narratives, certainly not easy to be mastered by artists.
- It is not really pleasant for the spectator to put on such impressive heasets and so cut themselves out of the "real world", whose laws and constraints keep directing their body.
- Mixed modes (augmented reality for instance) open interesting perspectives, at present rarely explored by artists. They were not present in Laval this year, but it could be a major research field.
- Note that the Award was won by Shortened Body, which uses no headset.

- This major issue, partly hidden by the ambiguous term "virtual reality", which can refer as well to proper goggles or caves immersion, or virtually (please enjoy the pun) any kind of art. We think that the headset, even more than the cave, is a really distinct media, costly and quite unnatural but opening deeply original forms of creation. Its success depends on industry as well on artists and research, creating a virtuous cycle:
- success would call for cheaper quality headsets
- success calls for a strong development of original and convincing contents.

3. Could Judith Guez, curator of the art show, find enough art pieces to fill these many spaces ? The answer is yes, at least for a First. There are some weak points, notably pieces quite far from VR, or not really completed projects. But that is quite in the spirit of digital art, where expositions and galleries hang as well seasoned digital artists as beginners and projects on the border of art and research.

One could fear that Paris, organizing New Images on the same dates, be a threatening competitor. That was not the case. Paris limited itself to contents, without the industrial and research backgroud of Laval. And in spite of a quite high price of the entrance ticket, did present few valuable pieces. But it could play a complementary part to Laval, if some cooperation could be reached.

4. By the way, note:

- No Japanese artist, but one Chinese(Taiwan), Chia-Chi Chiang. That contrasts with the former Laval Virtual, but is in line with an upheaval in Asian digital art. China is now very active on the cultural field. See our list of posts and references and the China part of our Digital Art geography (which has to be updated).

- A stong proportion of women artists, (including the curator) a good third, when in diccan the proportion is stable around 19% since the 1950's.

- An important engagement of public research (Paris 8, Ensad,..)

5. Conclusion: Even if "Avignon" is quite an ambitious target, RectoVR_So made the job. And Laval has given itself the capacity of building on this first success, with its Laval Virtual Center.


Pierre Berger and Yves de Ponsay



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