As an artist whose work spans performance art, music, sound, light, architecture, and virtual reality, Vesna Petresin’s perspective is in great demand. In addition to designing Lumisonica for The Mint Museum, Vesna has had a busy year full of exciting projects. During the last six weeks alone, she presented at three major events: the Netherlands Film Festival (Utrecht, The Netherlands, September 27 – October 5); the Beyond Festival and Symposium (Center for Media Arts, Karlsruhe, Germany, October 3 – 7); and VR Days Europe (Amsterdam, October 24 – 26). Additionally, she gave a talk at the TNW Conference at the Technical University of Munich in March, and since January has served as an Artist-in-Residence at the Amsterdam Academy for the Arts.
According to its website, the Netherlands Film Festival is “the leading platform for the Netherlands’ national film culture. It celebrates the achievements of Dutch filmmakers and provides the bridge between film culture and all facets of Dutch society….It is active throughout the year, stimulating and promoting Dutch film culture before the 9-day extravaganza in late September” when the best productions of the previous 12 months are presented. “These days, cinema is more than just films, and so NFF incorporates into its program disciplines that draw inspiration from, and themselves influence, the cinematic narrative form, from TV drama, music, and visual arts to games and interactive productions.” This year was the festival’s 38th year.
Vesna spoke on a panel in the “Our Brave New World” session, moderated by Dr. Dan Hassler-Forest, a researcher, writer, and lecturer at Utrecht University. In Vesna’s words, this panel was “about the utopian and dystopian aspects of new imaging and media technologies.” In describing her talk, entitled “The Real and the Virtual of VR,” she wrote, “The strength of Virtual Reality is that it offers the possibility to experience artificial realities as real: time and space fused into a “modulated” reality. Within this medium, my performance work has a strong idiosyncratic signature, exploring the medium in various contexts. My work is in transdisciplinary art and Research & Development – through performance and public art I examine the processes of transformation and the concept of time.”
Following her talk, Vesna presented Matter = Information, a new immersive sound and light VR experience for HTC Hive, which she created in collaboration with the Dutch VR developer Aron Fels.
The theme for this year’s Beyond Festival was Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence and Post-Capitalism. Its website states: “Within the coming decades new technologies are going to change our lives and the way we perceive it beyond our expectations. The BEYOND Festival is a creative collaboration of science, technology and art, an experimental laboratory for new forms of art, which simultaneously offers a glance at social effects regarding new technologies in a global context…It is a festival of films, audio-visual installations and additionally a symposium which exhibits new forms of art and media, such as 2D, 3D, artificial intelligence, virtual-, mixed- and augmented reality.”
Vesna expanded on the idea of matter as information in her talk, “Present Continuous.” She describes the talk thusly: “As the world of technology focuses on the process from bits to particles and from particles back to bits, the impact of social change through technology gives rise to a digital world order. Here, our value is defined by what we contribute to data processing. The culture of flow, Interaction, sharing, tracking, prosuming [serving as both producer and consumer], redefines ways in which we learn, work, trade, communicate and relax. In the world when the ancient myths are fused with emergent godlike technologies such as artificial intelligence and genetic engineering, how will we define what it means to be human?” Vesna presented similar ideas in her talk at the Technical University of Munich in March.
After the talk Vesna again presented the VR experience, Matter = Information.
For the exhibition portion of the Beyond Festival, Vesna showed The Scores of Chaos, a VR experience based on composer György Ligeti’s musical notation, which she created with a team in Amsterdam called the XR Base Unit. They worked at XRBASE Amsterdam, a co-working space and production company for immersive content that has locations across Europe. Vesna has worked with XRBASE Amsterdam (formerly known as VRBase) on several projects, including content visualization and modeling for Lumisonica.
Vesna writes, “The Scores of Chaos is an immersive experience, commissioned by Muziekgebouw (Amsterdam 2018) as an homage to the musical genius of the contemporary Hungarian composer Ligeti.
His music featured in some of the most iconic scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s work, making this collaboration groundbreaking for the history of the moving image. Ligeti’s fascination with the world of fractals, chaos and multisensory experience of music, has been the inspiration behind an imaginary trip into the world of his scores. Music becomes an immersive visual landscape, a doorway into the otherworldly beauty of mathematics, of our imagination, and the universe.”
György Ligeti’s music also inspired Vesna’s sound composition for Lumisonica.
VR Days Europe is “a conference and exhibition focused on Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality XR content, creativity, and innovation” comprising keynotes, sessions, workshops, and seminars led by “over 140 thought leaders and experts drawn from the health, technology, business, and arts sectors.”
Vesna presented a talk at the Museum Morning panel, at which creators, producers and artists shared projects that successfully used XR (X Reality) technology in the museum and heritage sector. The panel’s moderator was Daan Kip, a co-founder of VR Days Europe and founder of the XRBASE network. Other panelists included Nina Diamond, Content Manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Vesna’s talk, “Immersive Ambients,” discussed how “Interactive media allow us to create immersive environments and experiences outside of the ‘white cube’ of a gallery or the ‘black box’ of a theatre.” She writes, “To create a fusion of the built environment and the media, my practice utilizes the conceptof a smart, playable city…. People actively shape their environment; my work attempts to render visible and audible the impact we have on the world – on the shapes, colors, sounds, emotions, social experiences and physical processes – simply by being here.” She discussed Lumisonica, among other projects.
Vesna also hosted a session in the Philosopher’s Salon, a yurt where visitors took off their shoes, refrained from using technology, and discussed questions surrounding XR technology such as human relationships with virtual characters and the ethical implications of humans carrying out acts in virtual environments that are illegal in the real world.
Vesna’s talk, another version of “Present Continuous,” focused on presence in Virtual, Physical, and Mixed Reality. “As our present looks increasingly dystopian, questions arise about the future and the impact of social change through technology, while a new digital world order seems to be taking shape. A sense of presence in virtual worlds is akin to an escape from the trauma of existence. a largely disembodied experience allowing to play god. Rethinking the philosopher Montaigne, the sensory perception may well be synonymous with sensory illusion, as the meaning of the truth seems to become intangible, and commodified,” she writes of her talk. Afterward she led a conversation among salon visitors.
Throughout her research and artistic practice, Vesna Petresin engages with pressing questions around the relationship between humans and technology in the twenty-first century. Lumisonica extends that inquiry to the environment of The Mint Museum, creating an enhanced experience in which visitors’ interactions with the technology on the staircase lead to new perceptions of their effect on the spaces they inhabit. Come to the debut of Lumisonica at Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts, 500 South Tryon Street, on Friday night, November 16, from 6 to 9 PM to experience it yourself.