I talked a bit in the post ‘No Video is an Island’ about using VR to liberate video from the ubiquitous embeddable players that web video has become so dependent on. Little consideration can be put into where a video is watched when you are simply publishing to common video site. Your audience could be tucked under blankets on their phones trying not to disturb their husband inches away, on the train with tinny ear phones in, or tabbed away to a work document listening more than watching. Online video can be watched anywhere, which gives it flexibility, sure, but VR gives us the opportunity to see what happens when the watching environment is integrated with the footage.
I thought I’d try out an integrated footage and watching environment and 7_Water is the result. This place was inspired in part by the Desktop Monument episode of The Art Assignment in which the host Sarah Green and the guest artist Lee Boroson discuss creating desktop sized artworks that reference the feeling of being in a natural scene you may never have seen in real life. I went with rain in California, a rare thing to see these days. 7_Water is an art toy that lets you immerse yourself in a city storm when ever you get the urge. Just hit that raindrop button, by pressing the spacebar when you are looking directly at it, and down comes the drops.
I love city rain. I’m a city kid. Not much for camping or fishing or whatever it is outdoorsy people get up to in their quick drying, ultralight, double-protection thermals. In my opinion there is no natural world, there is only the anthropocene, and my city habitat is only the further down the spectrum of intensity of human intervention. So natural? check. What about never seen in real life? Here I deviated from the assignment, instead of picking a place I have never experienced I chose one I may never experience again: a San Francisco Rain Shower. They’re my favorite kind of storm actually, now that I think of it. These are not the thundering stampedes of rain that ruled the western rockies just across the range from my home town in Colorado. In those eastern rain shadowed foothills, raindrops came regularly at 4pm after school everyday, but, with little staying power, replaced immediately with sunny puddles. By the time the rain got to us the mountains had already sucked the storms dry and we were left with the tender edge. From the eastern rockies to the Mississippi, the land slopes downward away from the clawing peaks, tumbling down into a grassland half a continent wide.
But here in San Francisco, tucked away in the city, the rain was once an outfit we wore threadbare for the love of it. Rain that dressed more for moods than for seasons. But the drought is here to stay. I have to get used to it, to scrimping water, to brown medians, to no more rain. Ok ok you get the point. I miss the rain. Blah blah blah, prairies and childhood and I want my rain back, pout etc.
7_Water was drawn on 6 sheets of square paper, each scanned and then reassembled on a cube using Three.js. WASD controls let you look around if you are exploring the environment without a headset and space activates the ‘Make it rain’ button when you are looking at it. The video component, a shoot of me looking in on the scene from the outside, reduces the scale of the room, and you with it, back down to its original desktop size. All the code is available directly from the site if you want to make your own mini monument!