Media Installations > Karst, VR

Karst is multi-level virtual reality visual and sound experience / artwork that creates liminal spaces in between the representational and the theatrical, the limited and the multi-dimensional, and the abstract and the real for people to visit and experience. The multiple scenes in Karst reference a variety of places in our reality that is being limited to be visited because of various reasons, revealing human’s relationship to the larger world.

The first cave scene is already developed for the most part. It is inspired by Snow Yunxue Fu's personal childhood experiences of visiting the caves in her hometown in Southwest China. The memories and the impact of those experiences are still quite vivid, where the space feels both claustrophobic and expansive. The cave space embodies both aspects of natural formation and human intervention. On the one hand, the Karst caves are a display the formation of the rocks over a long period of time, much longer than any average civilization or human lifespan. The rock formations in the virtual scene are created using fluid simulation software, Realflow where water plays a natural role in sculpting the physical shapes of the caves along with the calcium accumulation over thousands of years. On the other hand, the caves are often lit up by artificial and saturated decorative lights; a decision made by the tourism department for groups of explorers to better see the breathtaking rock formations.

In recent years, the Chinese government have found the conditions of the caves are favourable for holding big data hardware as a naturally climate-controlled environment and other safety factors. While more and more personal data is now being stored inside the mountains of Fu's hometown, the artist felt the desire to recreate her childhood memories of the caves as a digital VR environment. The experience enables people to explore the caves and bring attention into the multi-layered digital nature of our contemporary human life. The spatial sound echoes in between the natural sounds in the cave and the hypothetical operational noises of machines. The experience in the digital cave attempts to embody the concept of the Plato’s cave in the medium of virtually contracted realm, providing a contemplative environment for the visitor to wonder; walking and teleporting within the control of the wireframed virtual hands that are given to them.

The second scene is just being finished developing. It references a disappearing glacier site that Snow has visited over the summer in Canada. The maze-like site invites the viewer to explore the color lighted ice land from the inside, as well as teleport from one peek to the other to reach the top point view, all to a score in the style of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Karst is an on-going project and a continuation of Fu’s artistic interests in creating virtual reality pieces that explore the idea of the techno sublime, relating to Chinese and Western landscape paintings, as well as the technological culture changing the way humans live in the contemporary technological culture. Karst has been created with the assistance of Arne Muraoka and Ming Rang Bai with sound by Daniel Brookman.