Exercise in Immersion 4
"Exercise in Immersion 4" - short "EI4" - is an interactive, augmented reality art game by Marnix de Nijs.
Exercise in Immersion 4 is developed by the Rotterdam-based artist Marnix de Nijs in collaboration with the V2_lab. The first public user test took place at the exhibition of DEAF07.
The interactive works of Marnix de Nijs are extremely physical, not only because of their tangible presence in space but also because of what they do to the viewer. De Nijs’ work is not about subtle interaction in which human and machine link up in a barely perceptible way, but a dynamic clash that makes the body aware of itself. IE4 puts the visitor’s body to the test. It provokes a clash between the virtual game world and physical space, a clash which is felt in the body of the viewer/player. He or she hears the game sounds through headphones and sees the game world through a VR headset. In a sensory sense, the player is located between these two worlds, because the body and its sense of touch provide feedback from the physical surroundings. The objects in the game and the installation correspond to each other. When the visitor walks up a ladder in the game, he carries out this activity for real in the installation. If there is a wall in the game, there is a real wall. Gradually, though, the virtual environment shifts in relation to the physical one. As long as the player moves slowly, he maintains the feeling of being in a coherent environment. But the faster he moves, the more the game world shifts in relation to the physical world, and he loses his sense of control. This leads to a surreal, increasingly disorienting experience – the senses no longer correspond. The piece thus becomes a practical exercise in immersion. The question is, can our bodies adapt to this sort of situation?
EI4 can be categorized as an augmented reality art game. It is played by a user wearing a specially designed crash-suit fitted with headset. During DEAF07 the game took place in one of the industrial warehouses in Pakhuis Meesteren. Once the headset is placed in position, the participant is introduced to a combined reality: a cinema-graphic, parallel world where the partition between the real and the surreal is interrelated with the progress of the game itself. Reality will gradually disappear, but if you crash into one of the pillars, for example, then you will be cast abruptly backwards in the game and towards reality.
The headset is equipped with a sensor system that can couple the exact position of the user in reality with previously designed imagery. On the display built into the headset, a combination between the real world and the virtual-constructed world becomes visible.The virtual world corresponds with the existing environment through a number of clearly marked reference points, such as walls, pillars and doors. Without movement, the player remains in reality and there is no possibility to take part in the game. Movement and game progression results in the manipulation of the existing space that in the long run will transform into a virtual environment. In the most extreme case, the representation of the existing space will be completely replaced with a new and unknown world.
Genre-wise, the game is roughly modelled around the concept of the classic computer game: PacMan. In EI4, however, points are not collected but ‘bionts’ (a snot like form: designed as 'discrete units of living matter'). The bionts have a certain level of intelligence and are essential for the player to navigate their way through, not only the physical, but virtual world as well. They function as an extension of the participant’s self and warn against anticipated collisions with existing obstacles like pillars and walls. In the higher levels, the bionts also serve as a buffer for other occupants in the parallel world, whose aim is to throw the player back into reality. EI4 examines what is true and what is virtual by literally combining them both in the real world, and by forcing the player to find a new balance. Metaphorically speaking the relationship between the two levels of reality could also be interpreted as the poise between private and public (media-affected) world as well as that between reality and fantasy.
Artist: Marnix de Nijs, Rotterdam
Software & hardware development: Artm Baguinski, Jelle van der Ster, Stock, Jan Misker (V2_Lab), Rotterdam
Crash-suit design: Carina Hesper, Arnhem & Maartje Dijkstra, Rotterdam
Audio design: Boris Debackere, Antwerpen
3D & light consultancy: Reinier van Brummelen, Rotterdam
Light: Prodelight, Joep Vermeulen, Amsterdam
EI was funded by: MultimediaN BSIK research project; Dienst kunst en Cultuur, Rotterdam
Many thanks to Stichting RMR_Organisatie
[text adapted from Interact or Die! (2007) and project descriptions by the V2_lab and Marnix de Nijs]