When VR becomes your real world. Aargh!

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3.01 p.m. Japanese superstar designer Takashi Murakami’s work — friends to Kanye et al — is trippy. It all happened when I sat down for a moment, exhausted from the brilliance of gawping at his designs.

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“I can’t believe I can just wear my t-shirt”, he says to his girlfriend, strolling along the beach. The comments appear uneventful, however it’s February 4th, 2018 and for the first time in thirty days, unbroken continuous sunshine bathe Vancouver’s landscape kissing the sea.

As if the ending to an upbeat dystopian film, couples and children emerge from the steep trail that leads onto the shoreline. A child in a yellow rain coat, perhaps not more than three years-old runs on the shore’s pebbles, trips and breaks into a chorus, “I’m hurt. I’m hurt”. Mother gathers her.

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I sit down, the light tapping my face, close my eyes and imagine.

It’s 2055. The sky is burnt. Whatever light gets through, blue light, is hurriedly illegally gathered by civilians. The beach signs warns people to stay away from the area where the suns rays are at its purest and its path unimpeded by buildings. Otherwise, law-abiding citizens are obliged to pay for this service — no longer nature’s gift. Coyotes too are on the loose.

The most popular service is a five-inch solar patch grafted into your skin, which stores energy to drive all your necessary bodily functions. You know enzymes, mitochondria and the rest.

Solaris IV corp — one the leading organisation in Sun and UV converting provision charges $15.99 a month. For that you can also guarantee your skin will be free of melanomas.

If you possessed a drone, you could fly your device into the sun’s streaks of light and wifi its content to your patch.

In 2019, a terrible event happened that would blacken the sky and pollute the earth. It was man-made, the result of bellicose leaders who could not fathom that nuclear and neutron wars yielded no winners.

It’s now every woman and man for themselves. Supporter bases have disappeared. When there’s living to be done, it’s no longer the Pied Piper, nor money any more, but forming living alliances.

In 2055, another marked event compounds living normally in this abnormal setting. People largely tell lies as the truth. In fact, truth was relegated formally to “contrivances and idle gossip” by state legislatures.

People tell stories, not to advance decency and rationale, but to get what they want at all costs. Neuroscience-historians say it;’s as if we’ve entered the 11th to 16th century again, when civilisation resumed after the Barbarians and Popes torched books and rationale out of existence. Religion was the only truth. They add we have our politicians to be thankful for the current turn, with a field of work called Journalism, all but defunct, being complicit.

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As I look around on the beach, a child in a yellow coat is being shepherded from the liquid zone. She asks her mother what that is. The liquid zone is what’s left of our seas. And since no one has been in them for thirty years any memories of their worth have been erased.

Dr Lisa Barrett called it in her 2017 book How Emotions are Made. Everything we experience and feel is not the result of hard wired activity in the brain or specific regions like the amygdala or hippocampus, but zones. We learn emotions through cultures, from your parents and the environment. Our children’s children have little memories of how we once, even in a capitalist society, had opportunities.

The sign says enter the liquid zone at your risk.

[fade to black]

This is the first time in four weeks I get to test fly the Mavic platinum. I’m about to attract a small audience. The instructions give the area a “C” rating. Not more than a designated height the instructions say, given the traffic in the area.

Tomorrow, I give this lecture. Several fictional films in the early 2000s ear marked where VR was heading, but few policy makers took note, or set out to police the Cloud to understand VR’s blurring boundaries. The Matrix (1999), The Lawnmower Man (1992), Tron (1982), Black Mirror (2018), Ready Player One(2018) and Blue Light (2022), were some of the early signs. In almost everyone of them, the future is moulded my corps in a new fantasia of cloud-based cryogenics. Those that have cut their gaze to look at the wall ( a Ghanaian Twi saying for passing) live on somehow in a philosophical mobius strip in terra bytes of data.

Like many, I was sceptical of VR at first. Like several other frame compositions, this was just another. In the 14th Century for millennia we’ve worshipped fixed frame. In the 14th century it would be crystallised with Giotto’s The Meeting at the Golden Gate (1305). The Italian painter had cracked a proto type of perspective.

From then on art and painting delivered largely composition after composition in fixed perspectival frames. When photography and film emerged they too adopted the square or rectangular canvas. In the 1950s in a distinct bid to outdo television, cinema adopted widescreen Cinemascope, VistaVision, and Cinerama. It annoyed many. Fritz Lang, the maestro who made Metropolis (1927) said it was only good for filming snakes.

When mobile filming took off in 2010, many purists resented portraiture filming. As with all changes moral panic ensues. The mobile audience on instagram and the rest has made portraiture filming the norm. Then VR arrived. It’s sibling 360 dares us to gaze around us. VR took advantage of the surround visual and sound.

But VR was something else, it was a platform taking advantage of a slew of tech before it such as: Second Life, Photogrammetry, Motion tracking and Cameron’s revolutionary cameras which set the tone for live action filming in VR — the virtual camera, the 3D camera and the simulcam.

At the heart of VR’s narrative is cinema, but hypertrophied. Stories are still wrapped around characters, events, scenes, plots, but the canvas allows for much more. But just because you can do 360 doesn’t mean you have to. What filmmakers will become adept at is prefiguring largely what viewers might want to see, and giving them the bandwith to do so.

In 2055, despite phenomenal data speeds and packaging, multinationals own the net, so there are added costs. Something called Net Neutrality finally gave in as the last vestige of Berners Lee’s brilliant 20th Century invention.

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Takashi Murakami Moment

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3.02 p.m. When I open my eyes, I realised in a couple of seconds I had an Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1891) moment. Creek Bridge’s script time and real time of events playfully are at odds with another. What you think is ages, took me less than a few seconds, but my mind’s racing ahead of itself.

Murakami’s show at the Vancouver Art Gallery entitled, The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg, compares to nothing I have seen , but it’s a real tonic for #creativity and VR. Like being inside a Scott Pilgrim + Eternal Sunshine + Wachowskis film mashup. Time to head home, but not before a Japadog — Japanese style hotdogs. I feel like I’m still in a VR set.

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Takashi Murakami’s exhibition shows until May 6th

Written by

Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.

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