CiRCA69 // The Third Day


The work of Simon Wilkinson [CiRCA69] incorporates audiovisual, installation, VR, AR, Ai, electronic music, online and performance mediums; often combining multiple approaches simultaneously to create highly immersive narrative environments which invite prolonged audience engagement. His work has been featured at Tate Modern and regularly tours internationally with his most recently completed collection of virtual reality installations [Whilst The Rest Were Sleeping] enjoying a 20 nation world tour across six continents throughout 2016/17

He is currently in production of a new gallery based VR installation entitled The Third Day.

The Third Day is a ‘work in progress’ virtual reality installation which comes off the back of several years of touring virtual reality art works. I have been in the highly privileged situation of observing the behaviour of a great many people across the globe immersed in VR; this is a new medium, it is little understood, in its infancy, it still has the ability to surprise us.

The observation of audience behaviours has changed everything for me, I have been obsessively making work for the past three years to try and keep up with it all. I work at night in my studio, a converted stable in a forest just outside of Brighton, with chain saws hanging on the wall, a lingering smell of petrol and – dominating the space – a HTC vive and quadraphonic audio work space. It is here in this studio that I have experienced something in common with my audiences: that moment when you have been in a virtual space, become accustomed and acquainted with it and then remove the headset and re-enter the real world. For a fraction of a second there is a profound sense of displacement and, for me, a niggling doubt.

The Third Day is all about that moment of displacement and doubt. In its completed form I picture a gallery space with between three and five HTC VIVE headsets, each containing a (mutually exclusive) collection of chapters so that audiences are forced to move between reality and virtual reality repeatedly in order to experience the whole work. Because at the heart of this piece are a collection of characters who are experiencing that same displacement and doubt and I want the audience member to identify with them.

There is a story which sits within this work, but it is a story told primarily through the experience of being in the places where it all happened // a kinaesthetic experience if you like // a story which needs you to be right there engaging with it. It is a story which emerged in 2017 from a residency at Cambridge University’s ‘Centre for the Future of Intelligence’ alongside such luminaries as Murray Shanahan, the scientific Adviser on the film Ex Machina. Here’s a question… How do we train artificial intelligences to understand what it means to be embodied in a physical world? Obviously we could give them physical bodies but there are huge limitations associated with that. Alternatively we could give AIs virtual bodies and let them explore virtual worlds. Why? Because if we want them to be incredibly useful then we need AIs to evolve into AGIs – artificial general intelligences – who can improvise responses to challenges in the world in the same way humans do but without the computational speed limits associated with a ‘wet brain’.

This idea is where The Third Day originates, and what makes this interesting to me is that the more I think about the evolution of AIs into AGIs in the years ahead of us, the more I come to understand that the story of artificial intelligence is not a story about computers so much as it is a story about humanity as an organism, surviving through time.

I will be working on the first three chapters of The Third Day throughout February and I will be posting updates both here and on the Oculus Rift in Gazelli Art House on a regular basis.

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