FIVARS 2023: Spotlight on VMoVA – Thickness of Calligraphy

Jessien Through the integration of exhibition and narrative, VMoVA – Thickness of Calligraphy tells a story about “the research and creative experience of a young artist.” FIVARS had a chance to speak with director Jessien.

What led to the creation of this piece?

Over the past few years, I’ve come to know some innovative researchers and creators. They dare to think outside the box and do not follow the routine. However, the results they explore on the road to the future may already exceed the bearing range of the inherent form. Because these forms are already beyond traditional ones, their research and creation results must be better displayed to more people in the real environment.

At the end of 2022, I started thinking about whether I could use VR to exhibit these works and tell these stories. In a more open and public format, like VRChat’s World, rather than a single-player VR experience. Thus came the Virtual Museum of Virtual Art(VMoVA) idea. And now, this museum has opened its first official exhibition, “Thickness of Calligraphy.”

VMoVA - Thickness of Calligraphy
Photographer: Eson (@EsonAdventures); Model: Mappy (@mappy_vrc

What was the production process for you and your team? What did you learn?

In the process of exploring new narrative methods, we will indeed face new challenges and gain new experiences. This virtual exhibition project tries to combine the characteristics of the two forms of exhibition and narrative in VR. Therefore, it is a clear departure from the production process of my previous VR projects.

First, we spent more than a month obtaining a large amount of work information and personal experience of the artist (also the protagonist of this story) through online collection and face-to-face interviews.

Then, we sorted and classified hundreds of works by the same artist and divided them into 24 series based on factors such as expression form and creative technique. At the same time, we also sort out the artist’s personal experience in chronological order. Two timelines about the works and the artist are obtained, respectively.

VMoVA - Thickness of Calligraphy
Photographer: Eson (@EsonAdventures); Model: Mappy (@mappy_vrc)

After the original material has been sorted out, we look for intersections between the development of the work and the artist’s personal experience. Discover and mark special moments when the two relate and influence each other. Based on these contents, plan the framework of content presentation from the exhibition’s perspective and write the story’s script from a narrative standpoint.

In the end, we carried out a tailor-made space design with the presentation effect of the work and the comfort and coherence of the VR experience as the core. After that, it entered a production process similar to most VR projects.

This new attempt gave me further gains and insights:

Works are born at the moment they are finished. However, before the arrival of this moment, how did the story start from pure questioning, and what twists and turns have been experienced?

The story that takes place during the exploration is just as important as the end result. Even unsuccessful attempts contain creativity and imagination. I want to hold the same respectful attitude to make the value visible at any stage.

VMoVA - Thickness of Calligraphy

How did you become an immersive media content creator and why?

In 2016, I was studying for a Master of Architecture at University College London (UCL). Our college maintains a very pioneering teaching philosophy. The School of Architecture strongly encourages students to conduct interdisciplinary research and exploration.

Since then, I’ve been creating VR experiences. In the past few years, I have completed about 10 VR works. Some of these works have been shortlisted or won awards at film festivals in different countries.

What is the VR/AR industry like in your region?

Currently, I live and create in China. Most of the VR teams here focus on providing customized content for enterprises. In addition, a small number of VR teams are dedicated to creating and polishing their own VR products, mainly for gaming experience.

VMoVA - Thickness of Calligraphy

What do you have planned for the future?

I wish the Virtual Museum of Virtual Art(VMoVA) could be dedicated to collecting this pioneering, original research and creation. To use scientific, systematic methods to analyze and comb, Present, and describe in a clear, personalized way. And then to invite the audience to participate and witness them all. And let these valuable explorations bring more encouragement and inspiration.

What would you like to share with fellow content creators and the industry?

The VR industry is new in the development stage. As the industry ecosystem matures, there will be long-term and continuous demand for content. While the game experience is still mainstream content, we should continue to explore and create new content forms. This will be more conducive to the VR experience becoming a part of the public’s daily life, and it will also open up new directions for creators as pioneers.

VMoVA - Thickness of Calligraphy

Do you think VR festivals like FIVARS are important?

Very important. It’s like filmmakers and film critics simultaneously promoting the development of the film industry. If you look at VR as a creative medium, it’s still relatively early. Technology, media language, production, distribution, and criticism play a vital role in mature media.

In the process of VR maturing as a new medium, VR festivals can promote many of the dimensions mentioned above.

VMoVA – Thickness of Calligraphy at FIVARS 2023 runs in person September 15-19th in Toronto and online through October 3rd.