Dancing with the Virtual Dervish

Part I by Marcos Novak

Part II by Diane Gromala and Yacov Sharir

This was one of the most visually impressive exhibits shown. I do not know what sort of divergence in vision occurred, but at some point the people working on this piece decided they needed to explore their own avenues, thus the part I and part II designations. To me it was interesting because it seemed that the main difference was the level to which they were willing to move into the virtual world. Part I was wholly inside the virtual space, whereas part II incorporated many other things in the room to create an experience for all those in the real space. In the first one, you are the one who puts on the HMD and navigates throughout the space, but in the second one, it was the artist Yacov Sharir who wore the helmet and danced with a recording of himself dancing in the virtual space. The virtual space is a fantastic realm of "liquid architecture" that is composed of a series of interconnected worlds. These worlds ranged from the very physical, such as one where you fly in and around a chromium skeleton, to the ethereal fourth dimension. To move from one world to the next you must fly into specially marked cubes that float around in each of the worlds. All of them had high resolution graphics mapped on the surface, and some even had short video loops mapped on each side of the cube. Even with the poor resolution of the HMD's used at the Banff Centre, it was a very stunning display. At the time they had seven worlds, but the nature of the program would allow for an endless number to be added, curtailed only by the computational power available.