Test_Lab is a bi-monthly public event organized by V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media that provides an informal setting for the presentation, demonstration, testing, and discussion of artistic research and development (aRt&D).
Ever wondered what happened to the future of Virtual Reality (VR)? VR's past has seen many visionaries who, often with goggles and joysticks in hand, claimed that the technology's future would hold completely new realities for everyone. These new realities would surpass the restraints of physical laws and flesh bodies by making "the artificial as realistic as, and even more realistic than, the real", as Negroponte stated. According to Kurzweil, the technology would result in millions of people being fully immersed into "a full-blooded parallel universe" most of the time. Obviously, such promises drew much attention from artists eager to explore the new esthetic possibilities that this technology had to offer. Consequently, VR became a popular research theme among artists and institutes dealing with technology and art: V2_ being no exception.
Looking at recent VR artistic development projects, at V2_ and elsewhere, one could wonder what happened to the promises of wild cybersex, psychedelic virtual experiences, and utopian parallel realities that VR exponents made. Decades after artists were first introduced to VR, the technology has indeed resulted in new immersive art experiences that most people have experienced at some point. However, do these experiences live up to the visions that artists had when VR first emerged?
It seems that advances in VR have taken several unexpected turns. One of these turns is the shift in attention away from purely virtual experiences towards the more hybrid experiences offered by Augmented Reality (AR), in which virtual elements overlay our physical reality. Also, recent developments allow access to such realities in places far removed from lab and home environments, and without the bulky technology attached to our bodies that accompanied early VR.
How do these developments influence our future visions of VR? Does the future still hold parallel realities accessible from our homes; or rather a single one that is virtually enhanced and part of our everyday urban environment? Does full-blooded immersion in the future perhaps take more physical involvement than we expected at first? Will we even be able to note the technology in future VR, or will it be seamlessly integrated in our body and environment? Are we still pursuing experiences that are better than reality; or are we trying to make reality better instead?
Most certainly, answers to these questions will show that VR's esthetic possibilities have changed enormously during recent years. By demonstrating state-of-the-art AR and VR artworks and by discussing those in the light of the promises made by early VR visionaries, Test_Lab: Better than Reality will explore these changed possibilities for the arts.
The V2_ Better than Reality artist-in-residence projects by Marnix de Nijs, Boris Debackere, and Jonas Hielscher will also be open to the public at V2_ on December 12th from 11h-16h.
2008-Test_Lab: Better Than Reality from V2_ on Vimeo.