By CharDavies, 16 October 2008

"OSMOSE addresses our relation to the natural environment [ i.e. wild nature ]sic by using the medium of immersive virtual space to encourage gentle interaction and serenity - instead of violence and aggression -while offering an opportunity to experience a sense of profound re-connection between self and world."

BUREAU TESTIFIES: Oh please CHAR. Whatever natural osmotic tendencies the piece OSMOSE was named for [this remains a blur] and claims resemblance to [who can really tell] the metaphor can best be used in explaining the story left out of all of the evangelical verbage around the piece - the osmotic relationship of technology leaking across a membrane of exclusion towards a greater concentration of money. N.B. osmosis in the biological sense [i.e. wild nature] is when water crosses a membrane towards concentration equilibrium: why dehydration results when you salt, sulphur or otherwise create an [ion] concentration gradient, why fresh water fish dehydrate in salt water and saltwater fish balloon in fresh water. The simple equation OSMOSE suggests is to put money within the institutional membrane of the gallery and watch the technology flow to bloat. Concentration of technology towards money...

CharDavies is VISIONARY. Creator of OSMOSE, Director of Visual Research [ and incidentally Spouse of Company President] at software company giant SoftImage [incidentally a major sponsor of the work]. The bulk of the velcro-zipped matte-purple CharDavies/OSMOSE media kit, the prominence of the OSMOSE signage, the sheer mass of the hors d'oeuvres trays at the OSMOSE opening reception signal the presence of a not unassuming exhibit.

OSMOSE [CharDavies]

Image: Char Davies, Osmose

COMPUTER ANIMATION FINDS NICHE IN MUSEUM the Montreal Gazette Aug25 marvels.

CharDavies: "One woman expressed it best: It made me feel like I was an angel". 

OSMOSE is precisely a 20 minute experience. The IMMERSANT, assisted by 2 VR valets assumes mediation of a strap-on breathing/balance interface vest and head-mounted stereoscopic display [strap-in time approx. 5 mins]. Navigation enabled via in/exhale detectors and motion sensors on the subject body; immersant point-of-view is beamed to vicarious sidecar audience in the dimmed room adjacent via stereoscopic video projection and disposable 3D glasses. A one-to-many transcendent experience.

It is not enabled to sublet the prescribed OSMOSE/BIT immersion time into two 10-minute VR QuickDips, the virtual valets are adamant: there henceforth develops this split bureau perception intraBIT / extraBIT.

[CharDavies] - "It's very important that this technology be used to express alternative world views. 3D computer graphics is a very powerful visualizing technology. It's not value free".

intraBIT "Immersed" in CharDaviesworld, feeling disoriented and absurd one has to draw on what ever knowledge one has of the piece to try to make sense of it.

I would like to talk about the content of the piece: a blurry tree, a random selection of quotes from philosophers and thinkers that have little to do with each other, some more blur - that was clouds you are told by the man who has fixed you into the contraption, some bits of the code that you guess are used in the piece, but like the quotes are disconnected and jumbled ... the usermanualman at your side, while you are "submerged" in the piece, explains that there are five layers, but you can't bend down too much because the proximity sensors between your back and the floor make the images go up [ i.e. to make you feel like you are going down] and you go into a speedblurloop which is not what they want you to do. The voiceatyoursideman suggests gently that you can explore inside the leaf. Zooming in you go into total greenblur - there is no detail except the occasional unantialiased jagged edge. I wonder at the brilliant interpretative insight of this artist to make the leaf green! The emptiness of the tree representation is a little difficult to take seriously, bereft as it is of any exploration of either the phenomenon of the tree or how it is taken to be meaningful - I can say nothing more. [But I will proffer two pieces by way of comparison that do detonate legible reactions. One piece by rigo95: a one way road sign reauthored to read "one tree". In two word wit, demonstrates the tenuous appropriation and absurd relationship of tree in the immersive environment of the urban technology we live in. Another piece by Jeremijenko is a symmetrical twotree arrangement hung in parody of architectural symmetry, one tree growing up and one growing down. The tree growth ripped from and suspended amongst the 3D architecture opens a contemplative relationship as the slow growth and the actual phenomena of the inverted tree turns its new shoots around to grow upright. Trees can be potent cultural icons for the artist if used with a trace of wit or imagination ].

But to detect the marshall mcluhanism overriding the sappy images OSMOSE renders... something about the means of production, the medium .... why charpainter is using the vr environment when it does nothing to threedimensionalize the images, does nothing to brim them into the spaces of cultural exchange. These are flat images - they reperform painting, make it a reified production and do nothing to engage the public imagination. It is the equipment itself that engages, the spectacle of vr - that unfortunately dearDavies does not engage. So "immersed" in the CharDavies piece, feeling disoriented and absurd, one has to despair the katemossthiness of the atmosphere.

extraBIT From the ante chamber in 3D blurscape, the meaninglessness of the immersed bureau agent's movements provide a patterned background to some disengaged reconstructions.

It occurs to this bureau member to wonder what worldview exactly is being advanced by this the GENTLER-OSMOSE. Overtly constructed against models of military/scientific VR interactivity-bydomination, this simulation boldly reduces all possible experience to an exquisitely rendered narrativeless digital swamp. This is the cut less edge of the VR float tank - no hard surfaces, few distinguishable forms, no objectionably large objects, no scale adjustments no social pressures no disturbance. The supplicant in superb isolation wafts amidst abstract amorphous elements vague transitions and kleenex-focus pastels, a morphine haze of compulsive serenity, the electronic mushspace. Anchorless, groundless, some might say pointless.

OSMOSE [CharDavies]

Image: Char Davis, Osmose

SHORT SIGHTED? In her research to recreate a unity of self-interior and world-exterior "eliminating the Cartesian duality between body and mind that has played a part in the shameless exploitation of nature by man", a catalysing process took place in the early 80's when CharDavies removed her contact lenses and rediscovered space. This probably explains a lot.

SONG OF OSMOSE: the audio is a soothing aeroplane-embarkation mix for Spatialized Sound [i.e. moves when you do]: elevated voice-synth music that imparts an approval of the human [CharDavies: "Sound brings a lot of emotion to the piece" ] it filters out the weight of a borrowed SGI humming unobtrusively somewhere in the background like a quality digital refrigerator. An easily-overlooked piece of techno-trivia. This system runs quietly on a $1.4million Onyx on loan from Silicon Graphics, a mainframe benevolence normally reserved for militarybusiness and gameviolence favours. [ It asks absent world questions like why, and what such a machine would or even could be doing if it wasn't here... ]. It carries about the emotional range of an imported flock wallpaper catalogue.

The intense vagueness of immersantworld is equalled in degree only by the rigorous precision of OSMOSE operations infrastructure: demands days-in-advance reservation [heavy preference to Press], security entry [ appointment privilege is one hour prior to museum opening requiring op-camera identity validation armed guard cross-referenced approvaling, entry escort plastic nametag], and the two contiguous VR pre-show valetmen making complex technical moves. Somehow obscured in the intricate promotional encyclopaedia is any reference to the paper signed on each embarkation, relinquishing OSMOSE responsibility for any IMMERSANT's personal/mechanical failing while under the influence of the art object. Immersions of less than 20 minutes distinctly disallowed as insufficient to exert the lobal lull necessary for full impressionability.

"The immersive experience encourages serene gentle and contemplative behaviour" [CharDavies] - it is force-gentling in a general padded cellular team; the gathered witnesses to immersion; the public testimonials of overcome users direct quote I'M A PHILOSOPHER AND IT REALLY IS AN ALTERING EXPERIENCE A COSMIC CONSCIOUSNES TYPE OF EMBODIMENT WHAT I ALWAYS THOUGHT WOULD HAPPEN TO ME AFTER I DIED. NOW I'M NOT AFRAIDendquote.

intraBIT POSTSCRIPT: There is another performer that capitalises on the spectacle of technology to get outlandish attention, a little more honest and blatant in his tactics of exploding people rather than just dumbfounding them: the unabomber - america's own vigilante antitech postal detonation master, has been disturbingly successful in making himself heard. An audience out of reach of CharDavies, despite the money, despite her booked out viewing sessions in the gallery. They both make the same conceptual slip though - that somehow in the complexfabric of contemporary society one can extract the material conditions of existence [ie technology], and that we are all complicit in using, creating and understanding a certain solitude, devoid and different from the social contest configured in the way we live and the technologies we use.

Perhaps Char could take her naive naturenostalgia and contrived technoblindness, her jungle of quotes, and marry mr unabomber technodemoniser, pledge troth in concomitant deafness to the intricate social possibilities that cut through the machinery of capitalism and living, make little virtual bomb babies. Like the marriage of presleydaughter and michaeljackson...

But back to Char who, unfettered, makes a great story. Years ago when she visited the bureau's own vr lab, and was still one of the directors of SoftImage, she demonstrated the software and sung its glories. Struggling with a less capable rendering engine, a young bureau artist asked Char how to get access to this equipment for a project not having the requisite $30000 for a license to buy SoftImage. Char turned to the starry eyed aspirant and said bluntly, "start your own software company". Probably not bad advice to a young artist many of whom still expect some sort of elite patronage and are never clued into the difficulties of maintaining a critical practice outside of the mainstream ideas of work. It does though seriously jeopardise the validity of cultural worker/visual artist as valuable social contributor. The imperative she presented in her answer [not so original] was that you buy yourself a cultural voice, or bomb yourself one. I don't know which of these I find less appealing or more drastic; the latter at least involved some degree of imagination and technical expertise. Undermining her own value as artist she has had to buy into the corporate idea and explore the immersive environment of commercialfrenzy.

GAMEOVER bureau of inverse technology

intraBIT / extraBIT

Proud to be Flesh