Art + Code: Key Takeaways From the Weird Reality Conference

Peixiao Liu also contributed on this post.

The Weird Reality: Art & Code Conference is a four-day event consisting of keynotes, panel discussions, workshops and more on the topic of exploring new and independent visions for Virtual/Augmented/Mixed Reality in the arts. The conference invited many experts and pioneers who are professionals in the fields of technology & the arts, as well as renowned media artists and arts leaders who are frequently practicing art using VR technology. 

During the Conference, we met up with experts in the field to find out what they expect from their arts managers and where they think the future of art and Virtual and Augmented Reality are headed. Watch below for some of their answers:

Here are some takeaways from the conference for arts managers and artists to think about when dealing with VR and AR technologies:

1. While planning an exhibition/production that incorporates "weird" reality, arts managers should stand in visitors' shoes to imagine what exact experiences they will be having. For example, Lauren Goshinski, co-founder/director of VIA and the annual VIA Festival, emphasized preventing “spectatorship,” which happens when people watch others put on the VR headset and are left out by the people inside the experience.

2. Make VR experiences accessible to a broad community. A specific example Ingrid Kopp and Jax Deluca gave was addressing the existence of “the other” community. While there is a community of people who have deep experience in VR, this is not so for the general population. There are many barriers for those that work in the arts to know how to use VR technology. Therefore, there is a gap between “the other” community and the rest of us who are not familiar with this type of technology. It is the arts manager’s job to link them to “the other” community.

3. Always make sure the machine and accompanying programs are functional. Ensuring that the machine functions well is a key to success of these kinds of exhibitions. It is vital that arts managers to keep in mind because it greatly affects programming, operations, finance and marketing efforts.

4. Be aware that VR is not new. VR has been in development for years (20+) by an array of key research facilities, including the Department of Defense, and is now used as treatment for when they come back from war. 

5. VR is still not fully developed. Panelists all agreed that VR is still in its infancy. Gaming is a primary uptake area, but some of the mass-audience gaming features are still far from being solved.  Hollywood is playing with it as an option for experience extension to existing content, but perhaps more interesting are the filmic experiences produced by filmmakers and other media artists. However, several indicated that VR is more related to theatre than film in its interactions.

6. VR technology is a new form of “language”. It offers a new platform to communicate and it challenges existing materials and ideas related to art.

7. It is becoming more affordable. Though VR is relatively expensive, it is more and more accessible to anyone. Art managers have many opportunities to offer immersive experiences to their audience. “Everyone can be in that space," said Ingrid Kopp, Senior Consultant at Tribeca Film Institute.

8. Visualization is a new form of information. The future of VR/AR can record memory, and combine old memories with new ones. VR/ AR can even be considered a tool that allows one to go back in time.

9. VR/AR can create an immersive sonic environment. For example, attendees during the conference could experience the sound through headphones, emphasizing that VR is not always just about the visual. The combination of different senses (sight and sound) make the experience that much more unique.

10. VR is still controversial. While VR and AR’s immersive content is appealing to curators and producers, the qualities of viewer's real experience such as comfort level of wearing the headset still remain controversial and is worth consideration for future use.