Art is a very personal thing that explores the deeper side of the artist’s psyche. It can come in various forms including painting, writing, and even dance. And now, Los Angeles-based artist Theo Triantafyllidis has taken art to a whole new level by introducing a first-person virtual reality tour through the inside of his body, fears, thoughts, and desires called Self Portrait (Interior).
Self Portrait (Interior) has been remastered to enable it to work on Oculus Rift and Vive as well as for regular screens that run Windows or OSX. When you open it, you find yourself on an icy beach where Triantafyllidis’ head sits at an angle with his mouth agape. Players begin by climbing onto his tongue and using it as a bridge entering his body. Once users are inside, they can then explore the virtual interior of the artist’s body.
Apparently, the idea sprang from several years working with game engines while all the time, thinking about simulations and interactivity. He said, “I didn’t want the piece to be explicitly about that, though, so I tried to make it more open ended. I wanted to expose the audience to visceral feelings, to a raw and powerful experience but also inject some humor and a twist to it. I found that the art historical format of the ‘Self Portrait’ in combination with the Fantastic Voyage interior would be a good setting to explore these themes in virtual reality.”
Self Portrait (Interior) explores free will by offering a choose-your-own-adventure narrative that accompanies the player as they explore. The audio can empower the player by emphasizing the importance of choice made, but it can also emphasize the uselessness of a bad one too. “Everything was put together in a game engine, paying attention to scale and space to make the experience work well in VR. I also recorded most of the audio myself, both the voiceover narrative and the sound effects, sticking a microphone on my belly or keeping it in my mouth”, said Triantafyllidis.
Moving forward, Triantafyllidis will continue his research work on VR as well as teaching at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. He says, “I am particularly interested in that anatomy of the VR scene and how we are attempting to reconstruct space. For example, how a typical scene is made out of 3D meshes, 2D billboards, materials, textures, a skybox, etc., and how these elements can be manipulated and rearrange to expose some aspects of our reality.”