What if we could walk into a painting and be fully immersed in it?
This is the question posed in this work. The work consisted of four digital moving paintings that were projected onto a wall in the gallery space. The works can be viewed by the spectator as a static art objects when projected on the wall, but with Virtual Reality the option of being fully immersed in the paintings is possible. This work is a combination of augmented reality as well as virtual reality because the digital paintings were in a physical space for viewers to look at, but the full immersive experience was waiting for them in Virtual Reality.
GalleryVR incorporates the concepts of immersion in that is participants walk into a static image and be met with a lively changing environment, complete with audio spatialization and full 360 views giving the participant the perception that they are there. It also plays with the idea of experiential interactivity because in order to move about these different space in VR the viewer uses a teleportation system that transports them to these spaces. In order to experience these spaces, the viewer must virtually walk through the paintings to be transported to these worlds.
By presenting this in a public sphere such as a gallery space, the viewers participating in it can share their experiences with each other and question the depth of what technology can do and where it is heading. This also breaks Joselit’s ideas on the surface because of the immersion within the experience. Participants are not looking at a flat surface, they are fully immersed in an experience meant for exploration.
The concept for this project was the desire to be immersed in a painting. I wanted to build a sort of window into a world and have all of the spaces presented in a gallery. There have been several attempts at this, most notably, Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, which is an 360 digital experience. The difference is that the Van Gogh piece is not interactive and focuses more on the immersion of Van Gogh’s paintings. The goal of GalleryVR was to create a fantastical space with full immersion as well as the ability to explore and discover new features (30).
The design for this world is a fantastical world filled with spruce trees, black alder trees and flowers. It includes features such as a large waterfall, a lake, and a floating island with its own smaller waterfall. The first painting features the floating island and lake and includes season changes, from snow to rain to summer. The second painting is in the same space, but in a different part of the lake where the viewer can experience a fire in the dead of night with bright stars. Viewers can stand on the top of the floating island where a house stands, which is the third painting in the series. This space has a day-to-night change where viewers can experience the light rays of the sunrise and the sunset. The last space is the inside of the house, a one-room attic space with an A-Frame.
These spaces were then recorded and projected into large-scale paintings in both the physical gallery space as well as the virtual gallery space as if to emulate each other. The gallery space is where the participant starts the experience. Viewers are fully immersed in a gallery with four spaces represented as paintings on the wall.
Using Unreal Engine 4.26 (UE4), I was able to create the fantastical world and all of the various spaces for exploration. The gallery space is where the user begins the experience. In combination with the Oculus Quest 2, I could program small interactions. The key to these interactions is the ability to walk through the paintings and enter these fantastical spaces. Using UE4's built-in teleportation system, participants can teleport up to the paintings to view them and then walk through them.
This was done through a level loading network created by triggers so that as the user steps into the painting they move to a new level and then are engulfed in the full immersion of the space. Users, once they are ready, can move back into the gallery space by finding the painting again, like a window into the gallery, and walking back through it.