A note from the Project Director

A year ago, along with the explosion of interest in virtual reality in the public imagination, we began discussions of its cultural implications. These discussions, led by Geoffrey Batchen, prompted a desire to work tangibly with this nascent medium. Although the history of artists working with technology is checkered, as artists we are drawn to new methods of representation and to the conceptual and technical challenges that these pose. Our task early on was to devise a process where artists could have a great deal of control over specifying the form of the computer environment without undue involvement in the complexity of computer programming. This led to the development of our own virtual reality scripting software. The software went through several phases before it arrived at its current state, which uses a graphical scripting front end for virtual environment authoring. This allows for virtual environments to be scripted with little programming intervention. Apparitions became possible as I discussed the idea of a VR installation with Gerry McAllister during the early part of the year. Gerry's enthusiasm, belief and interest in the project provided the impetus for building the network of support that is necessary for an endeavor of this scope. Without the support of Silicon Graphics Inc., UCSD Academic Computing Services, the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and Sony Corp., as well as the private benefactors, this project would have not been possible. As artists, it is both exhilarating and frustrating to work with emerging technology. It has necessitated a strategy that drew upon and developed a wide range of skills in the group members including computer programming, video, audio, photography, installation, 3-D computer modeling, and digital imaging. The integration of interactive video and virtual reality simulation is an area with little art world precedence. The challenge for all involved has been to address our conceptual concerns within a medium that is highly constrained by complex technologies.

Sheldon Brown
Vital Signs Project Director

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