Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Sat on fjord, surrounded by Björks...

Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik
So I hadn't even been in Iceland for 48 hours, and I was already sat on fjord, surrounded by Björks.

No, I hadn't been snacking on a bad batch of fermented shark, I was at the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, at Björk Digital, an installation of virtual reality videos of songs from Björk's 'Vulnicura' album. These ranged from pleasant 360° video of Icelandic beauty spots, to trippy CGI explosions of colour and surreal imagery, to one disturbing excursion inside Björk's mouth.

The exhibition showed how VR can be used to create an immersive trip inside landscapes, both real and computer generated, and how an experimental and creative mind can utilise this technology effectively to evoke a wide range of emotions. While it showed some of VR's great strengths, it also showed its weaknesses - current headsets can still have a level of slight discomfort (especially for glasses-wearers) that can drag you out of the immersive experience somewhat, and parts of the exhibition that were conventional screen-based HD video showed up that while modern VR is impressive, it has some way to go in resolution. But taking all into account, it was a captivating look at how VR can be used to transport the wearer into beautiful, evocative and even disturbing places.

Although very different of course, it reminded me of how recently the same technology was used by colleagues at Festival of The Mind to show the Virtual Hole In the Road, showing the iconic Sheffield landmark to both nostalgic locals and those who never got chance to see it. VR gives people the power to travel through time, through space, and into the minds of others - which is a particularly fascinating when it's the bonkers minds of artists like Björk.

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