When Virtual Reality Meets Art

When Virtual Reality Meets Art
February 8, 2017

I want to explain why you should get excited about Art and VR in general, this article is not just about the upcoming event on Febuary 18th in San Francisco, it’s about Art and Virtual Reality all over the world. In this article I hope to persuade you as to why you do not want to miss the Art and VR coming up in mid February in San Francisco, if you love attending great events, if you love art, and if you are curious to see something new in Virtual Reality.


One of the main reasons you should go is because my friend, the brilliant film maker and event experience designer, Fifer Garbesi, is the brains behind this event. Fifer’s events sell out for a reason, they are well designed, well thought out, and they rock. She is by the way co-organizing this event with our mutual friend, Stuart, who is a brilliant visionary in his own right.

This event that I am referring to is called ARTandVR, and it was in their words: “birthed from the belief that bridging the growing chasm between the art and tech communities could catalyze the radical change needed to become a humanist, progressive society. Bringing together the best in underground art and indie coding, the results are multi-layered, sensorial, and groundbreaking. The February 18th exhibition will showcase a projection mapped altar, world creation VR, and aerial acrobatics, just to name a few. Futurist Brett Leonard will discuss best practices for avoiding dystopia.”

(This is a picture of Hack Temple, which is an upcoming venue being used for an event organized in part by my friend Fifer Garbesi that is about Art and VR, more info about that event on the bottom)


When I met Fifer Garbesi we were both volunteering to help out at an event called the Kaliedoscope Virtual Reality Film Festival. A year later I’m an organizer creating events with San Francisco Virtual Reality, and Fifer is an organizer creating events with our friend Stuart called Art and VR.


Since we met at Kaleidoscope Fifer and I have been friends, and we have worked together many times, visiting companies like Meta & ODG, and going to events like SFVR, SVVR, OC3, and VRX to try the latest technologies before most get to try them, and we have reported on what it feels like to experience those new technologies via youtube, facebook, and the web.


Fifer is a cutting edge, first class, world renowned, globe trotting film maker, she is a director, a producer, and a great example of Women in VR leading in an industry typically dominated by white males. Fifer has been studying to become a filmmaker since before she was a teen. Now in her twenties Fifer has traveled to places like the North Dakota protest, and to Havana Cuba, to record and document history, with 360 video, and even photogrammetry, which involves taking a ton of pictures with a DLSR camera and then running it through a computationally expensive computer program so that the computer figures out the geometry of a space from the photos, and then applies the textures from the photos to that geometry, and the result is that people can walk inside photorealistic recreations of decorated rooms in Virtual Reality on the HTC Vive. The experience of Photogrammetry is so jaw dropping that trying it just once will convince you to buy an HTC Vive which isn’t cheap.


One of Fifer’s 360 films is called Viva, and having done high photogrammetry projects for some of her clients Fifer was ready to push the envelope again so this time she actually traveled to Cuba, from the United States, covering not only the first Virtual Reality meetup in Cuba, not only the music nightlife in Cuba, but also documenting how Cuba was beginning to change immediately after then President Obama lifted the embargo between the US and Cuba.


Watch "Viva La Evolucion" here.


While Fifer was the Director on Viva she didn’t try to write the story in her own words, rather she wanted to give voice to the Cuban people so she let the people in the film tell the story. Viva was backed by the CEO of VR Playhouse Christina Heller, who herself is another great example of Women in VR leading the way in an arena dominated by white males, and of course I must mention VR Playhouse’s Ian Forester who also went to Cuba to help create this film that was Fifer’s vision. I caught up with Ian at Sundance and months later it was clear that he was still extremely passionate about the film and I found out that it may be going to Switzerland and perhaps also Spain this summer to be shown in more places.


However the first time the film Viva was premiered it was shown in San Francisco at the Upload Collective. It was shown on the Gear VR and Subpacs which is a backpack that vibrates like a subwoofer when you send bass through its audio input jack. In addition to that Fifer also arranged for an extra piece of technology which made it possible for all the Gear VR headsets to start the movie at the same time.


After that Fifer cemented her reputation as one of the foremost thinkers in creating Virtual Reality experiences for large groups of people. It was around that time that she began to work with her friend Stuart to help realize his idea of a new event that combined the San Francisco Bay Area Art Community with Virtual Reality.


Together Stuart and Fifer created Art and Virtual Reality, an event that was show cased at the Upload Collective several times.


So why are people excited about Art and Virtual Reality?


It is a really good question and I think that perhaps the rise of the idea of combining real artists with virtual reality may have really started to become popular with the introduction of Tilt Brush by Google. There are now groups on facebook where artists meet to share their latest art with VR apps like Tilt Brush https://www.facebook.com/groups/TiltBrushArtists/?ref=ts&fref=ts


In the past year we have seen a dozen new art tools made for Virtual Reality and the real art community of San Francisco really is getting excited about using Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to create new works of art, but it’s not just happening inSan Francisco.


A Virtual Reality ART exhibition will open in London next year, by the Royal Academy of Arts. It will allow folks to walk through and interact with art featured on the HTC Vive. Read more here.


Sponsors as big as Gucci are funding ART + VR shows like “Collective Reality” which featured an immersive 360 VR show projected inside a Faena Art geodesic dome with live music, motion tracking and avatar puppeteering. Music was performed by ABRA. Read more here.


Virtual Reality is not only a place to make new art, it’s also a way to change and expand our access to fine art. People like Fifer with technologies like photogrammetry are going to museums all over the world to capture those spaces in 3D with photo realism so people can walk inside museums in London and Paris for example, from anywhere in the world, via the HTC Vive, via technologies like Photogrammetry. Read more here.


The point here is that Virtual Reality has already collided with the Art Community head on, a good example of that is the Meow Wolf Art Collective which has recently expanded into Virtual Reality. Meow Wolf, New Mexico based art collective is now making waves in the art world and they are incorporating VR and AR on a massive scale. Read more here.


With the release of the Oculus Touch for the Oculus Rift we also have begun to see a whole suite of new art tools being released for Virtual Reality, including Medium, Quill, Gravity, Project Dali, the reality is that the major 3D PC art companies that make tools like Maya, C4D, Blender and more are sitting up and taking notice of VR and beginning to create versions of their software tool suites so that professional 3D artists can work directly in Virtual Reality. Read more here.


Professional Artists like Android Jones have already taken notice, and while Android Jones became famous for the 2D art he created with toolsets like the Adobe suite he is now creating 3D art for domes, and 3D Virtual Reality apps like MicrodoseVR for the HTC Vive. Androids company is the Vision Agency, which is right now a group of four people (including my friend Phong). 


Recently MicrodoseVR started incorporating professional DJ music into their VR experience, that reacts to you as you play with their program in VR. MicrodoseVR is so cool you would be making a mistake to not try it.

Even the New York Times is writing about the collision of Virtual Reality and the Art World, because this is a big deal, to quote the NY Times: “Art is more than mere illusion, and it gains further meaning by pushing media to the limits of their capabilities. Virtual Reality, by contrast, is a medium without limits — a medium that tries to parallel life itself.” Read more here.


Time Magazine recently invited seven artists to create original works in VR with Tilt Brush. See what they created here.


Away Parge is leading the charge in India at Digital ArtVRE a foundation that combines 3D art, Virtual Reality, photogrammetry based tourism, so people can see India’s amazing museums from anywhere in the world via VR for one example. Read more about what his foundation is doing here.


Virtual Reality has proven to relieve pain, probably because it is so distracting, because of this new products are being made that target patients in hospitals, and again Art is colliding with VR and AR in new forms, call it Art Therapy with Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Read more here.


Speaking of therapy, the spiritual world has historically used Art to communicate wisdom and so now Shamans, Hypnotherapists, Buddhists, and more are beginning to create VR experiences that heal with Art. Read more here.


Another example of using Art in VR to heal with Hypnotherapy is an app called Floating Euphoria by my friend Page Turner. Read more here.


The Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium is creating an immersive VR experience so that you can experience The Fall of the Rebel Angels (1562). Read more here.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art now offers six of its period rooms in Virtual Reality. Read more here.


So there is art that is in the real that is captured and put into VR, is film art? Are games art? Is 360 film art? Then there is art that is created in VR with tools like Tilt Brush. Read more here.


Depending on where you go, you will get different answers to these questions, for example some Tilt Brush artists absolutely hate 360 video and think it isn’t art.


On the flip side of that there are famous 360 film makers like Chris Milk giving talks on the uses of new innovate technologies to tell stories, Chris Milk has used music and moving pictures all his life, to create art, and in a sense VR is the cumulation of his life long relationship with music and art. Watch his ted talk here:

Rachel Rossin has made VR her new medium and she is creating impressive surrealistic new 3D art in VR. Read more here.


Recently at the De Re Gallery, a virtual reality art show in West Hollywood, artist painter Gretchen Andrew showcased her debut VR art piece “Alternate Reality.” Read more here.


Virtual Reality and Art have a history that can be traced to before the Oculus Rift, but products like the Rift and the Vive are so good that they are really now starting to impact the Art world like never before, changing Art history forever. Read more here.


So what are you going at Fifer’s latest event Art and VR on February 18th in San Francisco at HACK Temple?


Well you are going to experience fantastic dance music, a light show, an art show that features real art from the real San Francisco and Bay Area art communities, including interactive art, virtual reality art, lots of exhibits, lots of dancing, comfortable lounges, visionary speakers, and more. As I said before Fifer’s events push the cutting edge of innovative experiences, that’s why her events always sell out, like me she has a lot of experience working in Virtual Reality themed events, and her events are popular for a reason. You really are going to have a great time, you are probably going to see something new, and you are probably going to be blown away by the beauty of some of the art on display there. Get ready for a good time that you will not soon forget.

ARTandVR: A Futurist Festival


It will feature:


Virtual Reality


Chelley Sherman

Construct Studio

Bearded Eye


Matthew Childers

Nick Shelton

Michel Reilhac



Cerebellum Projekt



Made of the Moon

Luminous Waveforms

Lucia Light Experience

More Lights Design

Infinite Bloom

Crystal Tea Service

Visual Art

El Shamanico


Welch Brothers

Zak Blatt


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