Remember when we featured the HTC Vive headset for Kit Pick of the Week? We chatted with one of the Artists from ‘Virtually Real’, Jessy Jetpacks. Read more about how Jessy got into creating VR experiences, what the future holds for her, more in-depth about her inspirations and audience reactions to her work.
1.What are you passionate about expressing through your work?
I have a lot of working methods and projects. With regards to virtual reality projects specifically, I’m currently interested in working with nuanced emotional and psychological experiences. Something that could be both funny, sad and happy. Dichotomies that are something mysterious and slow, but also rich.
I like the idea of emotional generosity,and I find the submersive visual and bodily experience of VR is a great space to use music and audio, the two coming alive together in a really seductive way. I’m also interested in working with elements of humour or narrative as well.
2.How did you first get into creating VR experiences?
I was invited to make work by HTC through the Royal Academy of Arts, for the show Virtually Real, which was on in January of this year. The one premise of the show was sculptures made in virtual reality that were exported and 3-D printed.
I also make 3-D printed work, but I find my interests, desires and working methods, differ greatly within those mediums.
3. Where do you find your inspiration for VR experiences come from?
My inspiration for VR is not specific or different in its source from inspiration for any work I make. Inspiration comes from everything really, browsing online, walking in nature, going far inside my own head. It comes from very banal everyday things: shit puns, music, philosophy, science, films, books, etc.
Sometimes I get more ideas of specifically what I don’t want to do with digital work. That often comes from looking at other digital works, even works I really like. For me, it’s about recognising languages of the emerging culture.
4. What programs are you using to produce these VR environments?
Unity and Blender are programs that I’ve ‘built’ my first two works with. But, there was a lot of experimentation and importing/exporting between other programs such as: Tilt Brush, Kodon, Photoshop, SketchUp, and of course the music was made with other software and instruments. Blender and Unity are both amazing and free to download for those wanting to try their hand at them. I usually recommend people get on there and see what they can do.
5. How would you describe the audience reaction to the immersive environments?
Firstly, people tend to react with apprehension to putting a big helmet/ mask on their face, especially in a setting where other people are watching or waiting. I think people are often expecting jump scares or shocking content. in that framework of slight apprehension or discomfort.
My works have been described as a total surprise or unexpectedly relaxing or generous. People tend to say they found it quite emotional, seductive, sci-fi, dreamy, intriguing, immersive, soft, inviting, and surreal.
Because of the strong sense of scale and disembodiment, I have worked with ideas of re-embodiment or physical presence. This has been quite effective and audience reaction to the re-embodiment work was satisfying as people were kicking their legs out and touching the chair they are sat on.
6. What are some projects you’re releasing in the near future?
I’m working on something for a couple of shows in Beijing next year. I can’t entirely synopsise that yet.
I’m also currently working on something quite straight-up romantic, in Tilt Brush. It’s weird in many levels for me. Tilt Brush needs a lot of coaxing and manipulating to not look so “Tilt Brush-ish”, and I always want to heavily temper romance. So we shall see if it’s sickening or nice.
7. What project in your portfolio of work are you most proud of at the moment?
The VR work I’m most pleased with is, “can our bodies still remember”, which was part of my graduate show at the Royal Academy of Art Schools in June, and also shown at Anise Gallery in the summer.
It was a major work, as part of a full room installation with multiple film projections, audio, furniture, and light works. It was set into a system of visual, conceptual, and technological counterpoints that balanced aspirational ideas of technology, and world building, with transgressions of humour, vulnerability. The subject was immersed by notions of the self as a character, a body, an artist, and a subject.
It’s quite a complex work to summarise, but the VR element was 24-minutes long, played in a loop and very subtle. What was happening in the room was
incorporated into the VR, and what was happening in the VR was introduced into the room, so there was a real integration between the two worlds.
8. Where do you see the future of VR heading?
If it becomes more accessible, I think it will become more popular. That’s if graphics cards required to run these programs become more affordable.
9. Are there any dream collaborations you’d like to do?
Well I would love to see what Pipilotti Rist would do with it, her work is so
emotionally bright, and I have a real interest in filmmaking in VR, and the language cross-overs and differences.
In terms of me working with someone, I would enjoy working with someone else’s audio landscape. There are simply too many amazing musicians to suggest just one.
Also if you’re interested, I’ve recently been invited to put my VR work on Radiance, an international research platform for artistic VR experiences. I thought might be a useful resource for you if you’re looking for more VR work.
We’re so grateful to have Jessy share with our Community about her portfolio, and can’t wait to see what influences her work for the Beijing shows. As always, one thing leads to another. When the technology becomes accessible, we’ll only start to see more and more immersive experiences.
If you want to keep up-to-date with what Jessy Jetpacks is releasing, follow her on social media, or even better yet bookmark her site.
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