Créaction: Symbiosis allows two people to create an ephemeral painting in VR. FIVARS spoke with the creators, Sonya Khalfallah and John Desnoyers-Stewart.
What led to the creation of this piece?
I met Sonya at Recto VRso 2022, and we connected in our vision for interactive experiences centered around participant creativity. We wanted to create a piece that integrated Sonya’s ethereal aesthetics with my immersive social experience design approach.
What was the production process for you and your team? What did you learn?
With me in Vancouver and Sonya in Paris, we worked on the project remotely, iterating on the aesthetics and implementation. Sonya typically created work for projection and Kinect-based interaction on PC, and it was a significant challenge to adapt it to an immersive experience for Quest 2. The particle systems had to be optimized, and the interaction had to be changed to suit the shift from 2D to 3D.
We adapted by integrating a novel amplified interaction that allows immersants to paint in a very expressive way. Créaction: Symbiosis amplifies the distance of their movements so that actions close to the body are 1:1, reaching up to 15 meters with the arm fully outstretched, creating an enormous spatial canvas. Those traces also respond to the speed of movement, allowing for fine details through small, subtle motions and expressive explosions of colour with sweeping gestures.
How did you become an immersive media content creator and why?
I became interested in immersive media to bring engineering and artistic knowledge together to innovate technology that is still rapidly evolving. Through a Master of Fine Arts and Ph.D. in Interactive Art and Technology, I have sought to reshape what is possible in immersive technology. Sonya has her Ph.D. in Aesthetics, Science, and Technology of the Arts from Université Paris 8 for her exploration of co-creation between artist and participant in interactive art. Our interactive artworks are centered around participants’ bodies and movements and propose new possibilities for immersive and interactive technology that challenge assumptions and conventions.
What is the VR/AR industry like in your region?
There is a strong connection between Vancouver and France through the support of partners like Alliance Française and Laval Virtual. Incredible things are happening in VR in Vancouver, Paris, Laval, and more, and bringing international creators together offers immense opportunities for innovation through collaboration.
What do you have planned for the future?
We plan to continue to create immersive and interactive artworks centered around the participant and look for ways that our work can be used to support innovations and research in VR and technology to support connection to others and ourselves.
What would you like to share with fellow content creators and the industry?
There are some challenging times ahead as VR seems to be going through the “trough of disillusionment” of the hype cycle. However, VR has a robust future regarding the possibility of realizing the impossible. The key to VR will be to continue to adapt and lean into the constraints and limitations of the technology rather than reproducing uncanny versions of reality.
Do you think VR festivals like FIVARS are important?
VR festivals like FIVARS are critical as VR evolves and takes shape. It can be challenging to have innovative content featured in other festivals because there are often rigid expectations on format and content established by other media.
VR’s interactive, embodied, and situated nature requires that we rethink storytelling to embrace multiplicity rather than force a single perspective. VR Festivals like FIVARS contribute to a better future for everyone by featuring immersive content beyond convention, allowing us to establish new and unexpected possibilities for interactive media.