Last Thursday we were invited to be a part of FACT’s Art Party event where we showcased our Hope Street virtual reality model – with a twist. In our alternate reality Hope Street is devoid of all arts and culture, leaving a soulless boulevard peppered with typical city centre sights and boarded-up establishments.
It’s all in stark contrast with the real Hope Street that boasts culture in every major building. As you will see in the images, the Philharmonic became ‘Samesburys’, the Blind School (where the Liverpool Biennial are currently exhibiting) is a ‘Willyham Bill’ and the Masonic Hall is now a ‘Costly Coffee’. LIPA and Blackburne House have both been shuttered, while the Everyman never awoke from its slumber and remains covered in scaffolding. As for the cathedrals, the Anglican is crumbling while the Metropolitan has suffered the indignity of becoming a ‘Pizza Butt’!
OK, so we may have taken things to extremes, but it’s fair to say that a world without arts and culture is not a pretty place at all. The difference that removing almost every trace of culture down only one street in one city is startling.
This was one of many parties happening across the country to celebrate the release of Art Party, a movie that examines the changes undergone by arts education and funding in Britain under the coalition government. The movie is directed by Tim Newton alongside Bob and Roberta Smith, with the release of their feature film coming on GCSE results day. This scheduling was no mere coincidence; Art Party looks long and hard at the effect of changes to the national curriculum and the importance we should place on the government continuing to support the arts.
While we were the only digital company in attendance, there were other bastions of Liverpool life and culture including a screen printing session from The Bluecoat and protest art from Liverpool Pride. We were delighted to be showcasing what we do in such great company, especially when the cause was one that is so close to our hearts.
Sadly we didn’t get a chance to see the movie itself as we were busy preparing our stall. Not only had we brought our latest virtual reality development, we had also brought along our augmented reality prototypes including our ‘AR gallery’. This uses augmented reality to take the viewer further into spectacular prints by brilliant Merseyside artists The Singh Twins and Stephen Chan.
The Art Party was the first time that we had taken the Oculus Rift DK2 on the road. Happily it behaved as this version is a lot more temperamental than the first. While the image is higher definition and the frame rate is smoother, reducing motion sickness considerably, one feature currently lacking is the ability to display an Oculus-eye view onto a nearby screen. We are developing a fix for this, but for now we found that being unable to share the images with the rest of the room was a real disadvantage when the inevitable queues for the Oculus started to form.