A very appealing project has been launched and will be on display free of charge around the country, both in libraries and cinemas, theaters, galleries and other cultural venues during 2023 and 2024. It is called VR-taiteen päivät, VR Art Days in English, an art exhibition using virtual reality as a means to bring people closer to different types of art through a technological experience that we are not usually used to. Funded by Kone foundation and produced by the national cultural association Elävän kuvan keskus ELKE ry, this tour is part of a research project and will cover Porvo, Helsinki, Vaasa, Jyväskylä, Lahti and Turku.
The research objective is to gather information regarding distribution, performance and demands: for example, what kind of requirements do cultural spaces have to hold this type of exhibition, what do they lack and what is needed, what the visitors’ experience is, what are the challenges that arise during the presentation in technical and staff terms, what works and what doesn’t in certain contexts with the cultural spaces that exist and why, among other important information necessary to improve access to virtual art. For that reason, it is very important to give feedback after visiting the exhibition. The results of the research can be consulted at the end of 2024.
I registered as soon as I saw the invitation on Facebook because you can reserve your place and the time you want to go but you can also walk-in and wait for the equipment to be available. I went to the session that was held at the Vaasa City Library in the Drama-Sali. This time, they were exhibiting three artistic pieces: Whispers (Jacek Naglowski & Patryk Jordanowicz, Poland, 2020, 21 min), Love Simulation EVE: Water Spirit (Eero Tiainen, Finland, 2023, 5 min) and Birth of a Bird (Janne Storm, Finland, 2023, 8 min).
These three proposals are obviously very different from each other and involve dissimilar approaches. To begin with, each one has a unique theme and the interaction that the viewer has with each varies. Now, the viewer is not just that. With this exhibition, I found the audience more clearly interactive with what is in front of them. You then become a more active audience in relation to said art.
In Whispers, I felt more like a witness but I was also a part of. Judge and jury, we would say in Spanish. At some point I observed and at another, I put myself in people’s shoes, that is the dynamic of the film. The viewer’s gaze changes evidently. The atmosphere of the short film was solemn, mysterious, ritualistic and very intimate in religious practices. Furthermore, a tension is felt related to the context in which the story unfolds: the Poland and Ukraine border area. The film envelops you in its density and darkness but also in the depths of faith and human complexity.
Moreover, I had a different connection with my partner, which I really enjoyed experiencing, with In Love Simulation EVE: Water Spirit. At some point I got chills while interacting. This stimulating activity is carried out in pairs. We created our aquatic spirit and through it we became entwined in ethereal waves that surrounded us, moving them as we pleased. I feel that if other movements were added, a private space and a little more time, I could even have an orgasm. I am not kidding. For me it was a very beautiful, intimate and erotic experience. It felt really special. A little shallow but still. It also made me wonder how virtual reality is being used for psychotherapy. I know that artificial intelligence is being used for these purposes and I have learned about specific cases. Now I am eager to find more about VR in this area. It could be very beneficial, no doubt!
Finally, the work that I enjoyed the least although it has potential. Birth of a Bird is a musical experience where the sound is virtually materialized with colored balls. Sound is formed and one creates it, manipulates it moving both hands, one moves it away or brings it closer. You have the possibility to make the sound big or small, loud or soft. The truth is that I didn’t really know how to interact in this one. When I moved my hands, sometimes I pushed the balls away and other times nada. I couldn’t control them very well, and it did not make much sense to me. However, I think it can be improved. I received clear and simple instructions from the staff and it is not complicated at all to manipulate. Nothing from another world. I think the opportunity for improvement lies on the side of the creator of this piece of art. The idea is great but there is something that does not add up and that is not achieved, I could never connect.
Another thing I should highlight is that I had not had any first-hand experience with Virtual Reality a.k.a VR. These exhibits are aimed at anyone and experience is not necessary. The minimum age to participate is 7 and 11 years old for Whispers. The event lasts approximately one hour if you want to experience the whole program.
In my opinion, it is essential that more people from different cultures and languages attend the event so that we can give our point of view and evaluate our experience. Let’s take advantage of these opportunities, if we share our opinion, we will enhance the access of our families to any type of art and technology, making our contact with it more enjoyable. I will be waiting for the next exhibitions because there are three more works I do not want to miss out. As I understand, Elokuvakeskus Botnia ry/Filmcentrum Botnia rf is promoting the event in Ostrobothnia.