Yowane Haku Tag

Future Perfect @ Hygienic Gallery

My work for VR and biosensor controller, Project H.E.A.R.T. (2017) has been selected for an exhibition at Hygienic Gallery, New London, Connecticut.

Exhibition: February 16 – March 3, 2018
Hygienic Art Gallery, 79 Bank Street, New London, Connecticut, www.hygienic.org.
Opening Reception: Friday, Feb. 16, 4:30 – 9 p.m.

Selected works from Intersections: the 16th Biennial Symposium on Arts & Technology

It is increasingly understood that our lives are pushed, pulled and interconnected by a range of intersections among multiple factors of identity and experience including: gender, culture, race, sexuality, and economic and technological contexts, among others.

Future Perfect includes a roster of artists from around the world, whose work explores the complex forces pushing and pulling our technological culture, and our own identities within it. Their work speculates on present and future fusions and intersections between our rich internal worlds, our bodies, our relationships, and the strange inner lives of artificial intelligences, data clouds and social algorithms.

Through works across mediums such as virtual reality video games, social media performance, experimental documentary, interactive sculpture, locally produced audio tours, and more, the artists in the show ask and offer their own answers to questions such as:

  • What if our machines touch and activate us just as much as we them?
  • What if they could read our emotions, respond to our bodies, and perhaps try to change us back? Are they doing it already?
  • What if we downloaded a digital version of all the objects in the world? Where would it be stored? Are we slowly converting our planet into data? At what cost?
  • How will this city look, feel, and sound, in 10, 20, 100 years?
  • What will you do if the world ends tomorrow?

Featured artists

Angela Ferraiolo
Eunsu Kang
Erin Gee and Alex Lee
Luis Mejico
Ricardo Miranda
Veronica Mockler
Shalev Moran, Mushon Zer-Aviv and Milana Gitzin-Adiram
Juan Pablo Pacheco
Mina Rafiee
Joyce Rudinsky
Laura Skocek and Christoph Gruber
Jack Stenner
Jeff Thompson
Jenny Vogel

Credits

Gallery Director, Hygienic Gallery: Sarah McKay
Curator: Nadav Assor
Installation manager: Brian Dimmock

Production support provided by the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology, Connecticut College.  Additional support from the College’s Center for the Critical Study of Race and Ethnicity, the Office of Institutional Equity and Inclusion, and the Office of the Dean of the College.

 

Review in Canadian Art

I really appreciate this article by Tatum Dooley for Canadian Art on the Worldbuilding exhibition curated by John G Hampton and Maiko Tanaka at Trinity Square Video. My work Project H.E.A.R.T. which highlights VR and emotions made with Alex M Lee is featured, among other great works by Jeremy Bailey Kristen D Schaffer Eshrat Erfanian and Yam Lau.  Following is an excerpt from the article:

“The gamification of our bodies renders the physical form void, replaced by screens where our bodies and emotions can be morphed and manipulated. Perhaps the only way to create art with technology as advanced and recent as VR is to reckon with its potential consequences.

Gee’s project, the most realized out of the four artists in the exhibition, masters this reckoning. I spoke with Gee in the lead-up to the exhibition, and she explained the conceptual backbone of the piece. “I’m working through questions of emotional sincerity when it comes to self-help. In theory, if you can technologically master your emotions, if you can just make yourself excited, then you can make yourself a better, happier person. I don’t know how sincere that is…”

Click on the link below for the full article.

VR and the Failure of Self-Help Technology

In general, I feel very proud of this work but also very exhausted by it.  Through the project I’ve been working through the relationship between pop music and war, self help and sincerity, and ultimately I’m working through these issues of technique and technology in how life and trauma comes to us.  During the panel for the exhibition, there was a question of whether I was “pro-war”, and it’s one that I have received a few times in facebook messages from curious friends from far away.  The project is complex and difficult to read because I think it has to be.  It reflects my own mediatized understanding of international conflict, maybe my own frustration at my lack of understanding.

The best I can understand war is how it is mediated to me: through video games and news cycles, through abstract discussions on the radio. The goal of this project was never to address the terror and complexity of geopolitical conflict, but rather, to propose a psychedelic pop culture mirror, imagining a video game ruled not by characters that espouse self-righteous violence and grit, but technologically manipulated empathy and enthusiasm.  This game fails to address war in the same way that all technologically mediated attempts to do so fail to address war.  I also am also dissatisfied at the idea of an artistic protest that makes a cartoonish, morally didactic utopia where rainbows and love shoot out of guns instead of flesh-tearing bullets. I think the answer about the politics of this game lie in the end screen: an abstract screen that confronts you with statistics of death and trauma as a result of the battle itself.  I don’t think there is a way to win the game.

Project H.E.A.R.T.

Project H.E.A.R.T. is the code name for the Holographic Empathy Attack Robotics Team, a biosensor-driven virtual reality artwork developed by Erin Gee in collaboration with 3D artist Alex M. Lee for use with the Oculus Rift.  The game was commissioned by Trinity Square Video for the exhibition Worldbuilding in November 2017.

A twist on popular “militainment” shooter video games, Project H.E.A.R.T. invites the viewer to place their fingers on a biodata gathering device and then summon their enthusiasm in order to direct their avatar, Yowane Haku, in “combat therapy.” The biosensor device gathers the human player’s positivity and energy to drive Haku’s voice forward to boost morale as soldiers battle not only against a group of enemies, but also against their own lack of confidence and rising anxiety.

Fans of the Vocaloid characters may recognize Haku as the “bad copy” of Japanese pop celebrity Hatsune Miku, a holographic personnage that invites her fans to pour their content and songs into her virtual voice.

The colorful landscape of the game was built from from geopolitically resonant sites found on Google Maps, creating a dreamlike background for the warzone. In-game dialogue wavers between self-righteous soldier banter typical of video games, and self-help, bringing the VR participant to an interrogation of their own emotional body in a virtual space that conflates war, pop music, video games, emotional investment, and virtual-movement induced nausea.

 

 

As Kathryn Hamilton pointed out in her 2017 essay “Voyeur Realism” for New Inquiry,

“VR’s genesis and development is in the military, where it has been used to train soldiers in “battle readiness,” a euphemism for: methods to overcome the innate human resistance to firing at another human being. In the last few years, VR’s usage has shifted 180 degrees from a technology used to train soldiers for war, to one that claims to “amplify” the voices afflicted by war, and to affect “world influencers” who might be able to stop said wars.”

Photography by Toni Hafkenscheid.  Images of Worldbuilding exhibition courtesy of Trinity Square Video, 2017.

Exhibition history:
November-December 2017 Worldbuilding @ Trinity Square Video, Toronto
February-March 2018 Future Perfect @ Hygienic Gallery, New London Connecticut
April 26-28, 2018 @ Toronto Digifest, Toronto

Credits

Narrative Design: Sofian Audry, Roxanne Baril-Bédard, Erin Gee

3D Art: Alex Lee and Marlon Kroll

Animation and Rigging: Nicklas Kenyon and Alex Lee

VFX: Anthony Damiani, Erin Gee, Nicklas Kenyon

Programming: Sofian Audry, Erin Gee, Nicklas Kenyon, Jacob Morin

AI Design: Sofian Audry

Sound Design: Erin Gee, Austin Haughton, Ben Hinckley, Ben Leavitt, Nicolas Ow

BioSensor Hardware Design: Erin Gee and Martin Peach

BioSensor Case Design: Grégory Perrin

BioSensor Hardware Programming: Thomas Ouellet Fredericks, Erin Gee, Martin Peach

Featuring music by Lazerblade, Night Chaser and Austin Haughton

Yowane Haku character designed by CAFFEIN

Yowane Haku Cyber model originally created by SEGA for Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA 2nd (2010)

Project H.E.A.R.T. also features the vocal acting talents of Erin Gee, Danny Gold, Alex Lee, Ben McCarthy, Gregory Muszkie, James O’Calloghan, and Henry Adam Svec.

Thanks to the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and AMD Radeon, this project was commissioned by Trinity Square Video for the exhibition Worldbuilding, curated by John G Hampton and Maiko Tanaka.

This project would have not been possible without the logistical and technical support of the following organizations:

Technoculture Art and Games Lab (Concordia University)

Concordia University

ASAP Media Services (University of Maine)