The Flower Matrix
music by Edmund Campion and Danielle DeGruttola
Additional Vimeo of walk-through of augmented environment with smart device, showing augments - half of a piece that includes a related VR component: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrGLo9x1JqQ The Flower Matrix is a VR environment that can be accessed through a physical gallery filled with hand-thrown paper porcelain ceramics, wallpapered and carpeted and furnished with objects covered by decorative patterns that are actually codes triggering The Looking Glass, Claudia Hart’s augmented-reality application for smart device. Through this “lens” one views animations also seen at monumental scale inside the virtual-reality headset installed at its heart. The Flower Matrix, proposes a new kind of liminal space – an uncanny environment for viewing an immersive world. In it, mixed-reality architecture becomes fantastical, embellished by decorative elements embracing an aesthetic of the fake in which technology has replaced nature: sugary sweet and chemically toxic in equal measures. Inside The Flower Matrix, Hart reinterprets the “labyrinth of the minotaur,” a mythological maze from which there is no escape. As its source, an appropriated computer model taken from the free-online digital repository 3D Warehouse, was covered with an edited selection of flashing emojis: icons of power, money, addiction and control. These are the symbols of casino-capitalism, both seductive and oppressive. An immersive score, composed and played by improvisational cellist Danielle DeGruttola while experiencing the the VR, plunges visitors into an intensely embodied and incessantly unfolding narrative of signs and symbols, as they navigate The Flower Matrix. Originating as VR, Hart’s Flower Matrix is a virtual reality designed for Oculus Touch, accessed meant to be experienced inside the Flower Matrix AR chamber, so exhibition attendees can see embedded animations also found at gigantic scale inside the Flower Matrix VR world - viewed through the Oculus headset installed at its heart. The effect is a blurring of the boundary between real and unreal, resulting in a transformational feeling of the body transported. Because all surfaces both inside and outside of the Oculus world are surfaced in the same decorative patterns and animated flowers, the result is an optical effect - the contemporary version of Op Art. Viewers becoming spatially and physically confused, experiencing their bodies as diffuse and ephemeral. They touch things, each other and themselves, in order to try to understand the limits of their bodies. It is this act of touching, and the seamless mixing of sensual physical objects that come from the earth - like ceramics - with ethereal and ephemeral experiences - like 3D animation and virtual reality - that the experience occurs.