Three days journey beyond Space and Time lies the Land of Cloud. The people there are silent. They communicate not through speech, gesture or gaze, but instead through strange and wondrous "cloud mirrors." Through these devices they are in constant contact with their deity, The Cloud, in whose image they are created - their bodies are themselves composed of softly billowing clouds.
The Land of Cloud is a beautiful garden, but the Cloud People are oblivious to their surroundings. They stare into their devices, motionless, spellbound by whispers from The Cloud. The garden slowly envelops them in its boughs.
The immersive experience:
If you visit the Land of Cloud, you will hear a soft susurration of voices when you enter the space. To understand what the voices are saying, walk up to a cloud person, sit or lie down next to them, and place your head inside their head. You will hear that each one repeats its own mantra, given to them by the Cloud Deity.
All mantras were taken from the 2016 USA presidential election campaign between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Creating the Tilt Brush sketch
As a child in the 1960s I lived for some time in Japan, and learned to write Japanese calligraphy in school. I was fascinated by the gestural flow of line as black strokes bloomed on white paper, and how the stroke instantly changed shape with subtle changes in angle and pressure of the brush. Later, as a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich in the mid/late 1980s, I kept wishing I could paint in 3 dimensional space in the same fluid way that I could paint in 2D with a calligraphy brush.
In 2016, Tilt Brush finally made this dream come true. Wearing one of the new generation of stereo VR headsets, strokes appeared in mid-air, responding in kind to subtle or bold movements of my fingers, hand, arm and whole body. My painting became a virtual world, a garden of strokes through which I could stroll.
Land of Cloud emerged out of this experimentation and was the first VR work I created in stereo VR. Each plant is created with a unique brush, texture and calligraphic gestural stroke that determines its form, appearance and composition. Like action painters and calligraphers, the very act of creation becomes an dynamic experience in which not just the hand, or arm, but the body itself is the brush - and the canvas an immersive 360° space. Each object is unique, coming to life with the chance randomness of gestures that are never exactly the same.
I dislike the plasticky cartoony human figures that are prevalent in low-end computer graphics. In Tilt Brush however I could create human figures with the softly billowing smoke brush – particle systems! – whose constantly shifting contours impart a sense of life to the otherwise static figures.
3D soundscape: Google Tilt Brush Artist in Residence, and Tilt Brush Unity 3D Toolkit
In the “vintage VR” artworks I created from 1994 – 2010, I was able to create vast, interactive virtual worlds through which the user could move at will. Although I showed these works as 2D monoscopic projections, I could use spatial sound that gave the life-sized image a sense of 3D space.
In Tilt Brush however I could only create “sketches”: static, silent worlds. In 2017 I was thrilled to be invited to go to San Francisco and work in person with the Google Tilt Brush team as Artist in Residence, to explore with them how the capabilities of Tilt Brush could be expanded to create the sorts of richer virtual worlds I was used to creating.
Later that year the team brought out their Tilt Brush Toolkit that can be used to import a sketch into the Unity 3D Editor, at that time the primary development platform for creating interactive computer games. I used this Toolkit in Unity to add 3D spatial audio to Land of Cloud, transforming it from a static sketch into a soundscape that constantly changes as you move through this whisper garden.
In 2018, my small, quiet Land of Cloud installation beat many more spectacular, high production works to win the Audience Award at the first VRHAM VR festival in Hamburg. I was delighted that in a world increasing dominated by large, flashy high-end productions, there is still appreciation for the “hand-made” artworks that use artistic experiment rather than a huge, highly skilled team to create compelling VR experiences.