The Ars Electronica Garden Sydney showcases the experiments, prototypes, and conversations that emerged from the VR research and incubation program of the Tactical Space Lab in 2020.
The Tactical Space Lab is a research initiative focusing on the intersection of art and technology. We are committed to expanding the diversity of stories and voices represented through new technologies via collaborative projects and educational programs across all ages, with the aim of ‘demystifying’ VR, not just for artists, but for the wider community.
The Ars Electronica Garden Sydney hosts the output of nine, Australia-based artists who participated in the artist-led research program on experimental VR studios at the Tactical Space Lab; during which each artist was introduced to VR technologies, experiences, and digital creation workflows during a two-week ‘incubator’ style studio in skill-building, experimentation and collaborative art-making.
Through COVID-19 isolation, the Tactical Space Lab transitioned to remote work, with the artists co-presenting in VR spaces and through video-conferencing, screen-sharing, live-stream demos, 360-video and Mozilla Hubs.
Our Sydney Garden is an open showcase of not only the outcomes produced by our artists — 3D models, animations, embedded video and sounds— but the processes and conversations that led to them; a personal tour of our lab with all of our experiments and prototypes on show.
Exploring presence and time in lockdown
Jason Phu (AU), Josh Harle (AU)
„The Eternal Parade”, combines a world of mythological and fantasy creatures together in an endless parade of supernatural spirits. Exploring lockdown-appropriate, novel ways of making and presenting VR art, artist Jason Phu worked with Tactical Space Lab to create a perpetual, constantly-changing street scene via a 360 YouTube live-stream, accommodating anything from phones, TVs, or laptops, to various VR headsets to view in isolation or otherwise.
Exploring communities in out-moded utopias
Kylie Banyard (AU), Josh Harle (AU)
Extending from a body of work inspired by the history of Black Mountain College, an experimental avant-garde college in the mountains of North Carolina, artist Kylie Banyard worked with Tactical Space Lab to explore a model of ‘intentional’ community spaces within virtual reality. Initially attracted to Mozilla Hubs for its broad accessibility, Hubs aptly echoed the same idealistic, almost utopian themes of communal, alternative living at the heart of BMC, Freetown Christiania and others.
Recomposing histories through VR
Claudia Nicholson (AU), Josh Harle (AU)
Claudia Nicholson’s paintings reconfigure colonial depictions of first contact in the Americas, embedding the work with folklore and personal histories in a bid to disrupt colonial narratives. Landscapes are rearranged to leak into each other, to conflate time, myth and ecologies.
Being within the story
John Gillies (AU)
A virtual experience of uncertainty, intangibility, and off-kilter interpersonal connections. Developed through experimental collaboration at Tactical Space Lab, making use of 180-degree stereo footage in a 6dof virtual space, and experienced within a theatrical physical staging, the work makes use of a rich landscape of spatialized sound to create a sense of shared presence.
Reconciling conflict in imaginary places
Louise Zhang (AU), Josh Harle (AU)
Working in collaboration with Tactical Space Lab, the work invites the audience to visit the „Mei guanxi“ temple as a place not dictated by a single narrative, but of multitudes and acceptance, and inhabited by a selection of Zhang’s sculptural works that have been scanned, modelled, and simulated using HoudiniFX to imbue them with life and motion.
On the symbolic power of architectural form
Tarik Ahlip (AU), Josh Harle (AU)
This project extends Tarik Ahlip’s study of sculptural form as a medium for exploring ontologies and socialised ideals of nature. Drawing on his background in architecture and interest in film, Ahlip’s worked with Tactical Space Lab to explore the figurative dimensions in sculpture within a cinematic composition of scenes in VR.
The music between chaos and control
Nic Cassey (AU), Josh Harle (AU)
Riffing on discussions around improvised performance, musician Nic Cassey worked with Tactical Space Lab to create a generative ‘instrument’ in VR, both played by and in collaboration with the VR participant. Combining elements of a mandala-inspired, hand-drawn style with a unique system for creating generative music, the work explored the tension at play between chaos (change) and order (the static) at play in improv music and other generative systems, manifested as the tension between harmony and dissonance, progression and development of the music.
On eco-sensuality with untethered VR
Grace Kingston (AU), Josh Harle (AU)
Artist Grace Kingston’s work with Tactical Space Lab explored themes of artifice and facade vs nourishment and connection in our digitally-mediated evocations of the natural world, making use of the stand-alone capabilities and hand-tracking of the Oculus Quest to create a site-specific VR work that maps to the natural landscape and features it’s experienced in.
Project Credits / Acknowledgements
Director: Dr Josh Harle (AU)
Participating Artists: Tarik Ahlip (AU), Cigdem Aydemir (AU), Kylie Banyard (AU), Nic Cassey (AU), John Gillies (AU), Grace Kingston (AU), Claudia Nicholson (AU), Jason Phu, and Louise Zhang (AU).
Videographer: Josh Mehmet (AU)/ Officedog Productions (AU)
Tactical Space Lab is supported by the NSW Government and the Australia Council for the Arts