Natalia Goncharova:
Still Lifes in VR
Done through VRTech. Concept by Maxim Goudin and myself. Directed by Gia Djakhaya. Produced by Svetlana Gorbacheva. Art-directed by Gordon and Misha Mezelintsev. Supervised by Tigran Arutunyan. Technical direction by Sergey Konyukhovsky. UX by Pavel Sovushkin. Engineered by Svetozar Dovzhik, Maxim Martynov, Roman Smirnov, Bakhodir Khakimov, Alexander Shatalov. Neural network magic by Paver Zyryanov. CG by Evgeniya Sycheva, Sergey Kolynychenko, Alexander Anufriev, Alexey Zhukov, Grigoriy Sazonov.
It is easier for a curious person to gain more facts than it is for a knowledgeable person to ask new questions. My educational projects thus strive to produce interest. This specific VR app is dedicated to still lifes of Natalia Goncharova, a Russian avant-garde artist who was active in the beginning of the XX century.
Left: Goncharova's original still life. Right: a neural network modeled outcome of a visitor's activity. You could play with the same objects she could play with, so that when you see her paintings, you think, 'Ha! And I placed the chess board on the side!'.
It would be satisfying to keep adjusting my virtual tableau, but instead I let the melon roll away, take a brush and begin to swipe at a canvas in front of me. My scene appears, wonky fruit and all, rendered in the style of Goncharova.
The use of virtual reality in art has been on the rise in recent years with galleries looking for ways to use new technology to attract visitors. The Tate Modern in London recently held a VR exhibition based on the later life of Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani.
A lot of this project background and making are seen in the brilliant publications by Cat Ellis and Joe Whitwell. So here, I will only talk of still lifes.
Still lifes are curious if you believe composition to be curious. When I lecture, I propose the simple exercise of placing a dot in the exact centre of a blank sheet. This produces no effect until a second sheet is taken and a second dot is placed, but slightly to the right of the centre. Most students find this new placement irritating. This is how they first encounter emotional response towards composition.
Project's UX lead Paul Sovushkin provides demonstration of fancy hand curvatures at a TEDx.
The VR thing is the fancy version of the same exercise. You get to place objects in different patterns and you also get gratification in the form of a computer-generated instantly-instagrammable painting. But the painting is, of course, secondary to your newly acquired ability to feel how placement of objects works.
This is what a 4-player PlayVR rig looks like. These rigs are used for ArtVR as well.
Actually, we are simply fixing the historical error of sorts. Before the middle of the XX century, more museum visitors had access to basic graphical training. I am saying 'museum visitors' and not 'people' because of financial stratification and difference in population. Thus, more people had tried it before they saw it.
Zelfira Tregulova and Lara Bobkova, the Director General and the Head of Communications for the State Tretyakov Gallery. The two brilliant women who spared no effort to ensure our project succeeds. Apart from providing us necessary legal support to use Goncharova's heritage, they allowed the first ArtVR to be installed on their premises.
These ideas should also be considered in the broader context of education. Some theorists advocate for complete destruction of educational istitutes on favour of, say, online courses. In this scenario, any means for rousing curiosity or acquiring hands-on experience die, too. I favour more balanced approaches such as the Kano initiative which is good for institutions, but can be used at home with a decent degree of effectiveness.
Some more team members whose photographs I had on hand. Svetlana Gorbacheva, the ever-vigilant producer. Alex Morozov, the ever beer-drinking VRTech's CMO. Gordon, the ever slightly-angled-to-the-camera art-director.