MAS Thesis Proposal
Candidate : Rose Heydt
Advisor : David Olsen
The ability to “fake” reality, and draw people into an altered or imagined world, has become one of the most important skills in arts and technology. Innovations in this field are everywhere: improvements in HD and 3D aim to blur the line between the screen and real life, the Wii and Kinect game systems involve realistic movements during play, video chatting allows you to speak face to face with someone physically distant, MMORPGs offer the chance to live another life and form real relationships with other players/characters in an alternate reality, and user interfaces have adopted increasingly intuitive movements like swiping and pinching.
The purpose of these innovations is not to fool the viewers into believing they are somewhere they are not, but rather to give them the essence of an experience, through providing an environment in which they are comfortable allowing their rational mind to temporarily accept the simulated as real. By making the underlying technologies disappear, we tear down the wall between reality and illusion, and find ourselves with the ability to transport the viewer to another reality, if not physically, then mentally and emotionally.
There are some things that verbal descriptions, or even images, can never do justice to. When I left Nebraska to come to Wellesley, I found that I had difficulty explaining my origins to the people I was meeting. Certain things, like how big the sky feels, how rapidly and violently the weather changes, how the rows of corn form ever-changing patterns as you drive by, and even the loneliness and sereneness of the city at night, meant Nebraska to me, and simply have to be experienced to be understood. Inspired by this frustration and the need to reminisce, a great deal of my art has focused on recreating or reimagining the experiences and environments that are significant to me – primarily, small emotional chunks of Nebraska.
A fascination with lighting has also become a recurring theme in my artistic endeavors. Through my experience lighting for the stage, I learned to use this medium to add a transparent layer of emotion or atmosphere to a scene. More recently, I’ve found myself using lighting as the centerpiece of my art rather than behind the scenes, by juxtaposing arrays of minimal light fixtures with plains landscapes to create an eerie, futuristic feel. I enjoy creating these contrasts of light and dark, organic with inorganic, and stark disciplined patterns to the flow of natural earth. Owing to my interest and double major in Psychology, I am also fascinated by illusion. I love the idea of the brain, which does so much constructing and interpreting of the world automatically and unconsciously, having to pause for a moment to figure out what it’s seeing. I believe that my proposed thesis is an appropriate culmination of these interests and experiences.
My goal is to create an immersive environment that translates to the viewer the emotional essence of a place, although this emotional reaction will not be the same for everyone. Using unobtrusive technology, this environment will change dynamically in response to outside forces (ex time of day, weather, inputted data) or to the viewer’s intuitive interactions with the environment.
I plan to begin by researching the various technologies available to simulate dynamic reality and realistic user interaction, including sensors and tangible user interfaces. I will also begin designing the look and feel of the installation by doing artistic explorations such as animations, videos, photos, and sketches. I plan on documenting my process in blog format, and using this site to collect the information I find.
By the end of the semester, I aim to have finished the planning stages of this project. At this point I would like to know what technology I will need, how I will use it, and the basics of the technical aspects of implementing it. By this point I also want to have decided upon the emotional experience I want to create, including the formal qualities of the piece and methods of viewer interaction. I will make mock-up images and diagrams of the installation, and plan on producing a small prototype.
Although I have experience with dynamic animations in Flash and Director, video production, lighting for stage, and some sensors, I know that a bulk of the work for this project will be learning how to implement the technological aspects. Although I will require some assistance obtaining the necessary building materials and technical equipment, I am hoping to use tutorials and other internet resources to figure out the majority of the technical issues. I hope to use this project to learn more skills relating to interactive technology, and to broaden my knowledge of means through which humans can interact with computers in an intimate and emotional way.