the Fold: Episode I



2018-2020AD

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"the Fold" still from virtual reality installation for Oculus Rift & HTC Vive, stereo sound, ongoing

 

"the Fold: episode I & II" is a non-linear interactive film and virtual reality-based art game involving rooms with doors containing a concept folding into other rooms with doors. Inspired by Jorge Luis Borges' short story 'The Garden of Forking Paths', this VR-based 'escape the room' project highlights the similarities and differences of technics as it relates to Western (episode I) and Eastern (episode II) philosophy including structuralist & surrealist literature, sentient bodies, metaphysics, mathematics, the virtual object, Buddhism, Zen principles, Qi (氣), and problematizes the affirmation of technics, its outputs and technologies as anthropologically universal within the frame of VR, AI, 3D animation, and video games.


To date, the project involves an array of these rooms:

episode I episode II
the Doors the Great Buddha
the Fold the Rock Garden (T-shape)
the Grid the Pocket Mazes
the Meridies the Rock Garden (Infinite Marc+grittes)
the Cave the Islands of Smoke & Mirrors
  the Shrine of Balancers
  the Temple of Ascension
   
liminal spaces

bosses

Agent άλφα Neolibus: late-capitalist monster
Agent Qi/ Zhuangzi Butterflies
 

 


"It is almost impossible to deny that technics can be understood as the extension of the body or the extension of memory. Yet they may not be percieved or reflected upon in the same way in different cultures." - Yuk Hui

 

 

See below for details about each room:

the Doors is the starting scene containing a door for each cardinal direction. A player can choose any of the four doors to start the experience.

 

 

the Fold is a room whose contents refer to the diagrams created in Bernard Cache's book 'Earth Moves'. Cache alludes to the idea of the fold and is a significant aspect to the embodiment of the virtual space as a navigable meandering path. The player starts with an initial third person virtual readymade protagonist. If the player falls off the path, the player starts over with a new protagonist. There are six protagonists which cycle through each instance including: the bottle rack, the bicycle wheel, the Utah teapot, the pawn, the urinal, and the pipe.

 

 

the Grid is a room whose contents refer to elements within the book 'Godel, Escher, Bach' by Douglas Hofsteader. In it the idea of recursion is associated with various elements including Spanish Baroque architecture. Virtual readymade objects are also a significant aspect to this room.

 

 

the Cave is a room whose contents refer to the allegory of the cave by Plato. Elements found in the Grid cast shadows within the cave conceptually linking Plato's allegory to the idea of the virtual readymade object.

 

 

the Meridies is a room whose contents refer to the late 15th century diagram found in Edward Tufte's book 'The Visual Display of Information'. Here contents of Petrus Apianus' 1546 edition of 'Cosmographia' is spatialized as a mise en abyme exploiting the potential of the VR medium to display information in the Z-axis with a heightened sense of presence.

 

the Fold: Episode II



2020-ongoing


the Great Buddha is the starting scene for episode II where there are five doors. Each door corresponds to an element of Zen referred to in the five elements:

 

 

Earth 地 (지,ち): collectiveness, stability, physicality, and gravity

Water 水 (수, すい): the fluid, flowing and the formless things in the world

Fire 火 (화,か): the energetic, forceful, moving things in the world

Wind 風 (풍,ふう): things that grow, expand, and enjoy freedom of movement

Void 空 (공,くう): those things beyond and within our everyday comprehension

  the Rock Garden (T-Shape) involves a rock garden populated by artificial intelligent agents competing to get through the door to the next level. Each agent has been trained using machine learning in order to find the door. After 1.5 million training steps, they have learned to climb on top of each other to achieve this goal. If you make a mistake by falling off the platform, you start over in a random new position. At each iteration the wall is high, low or nonexistent. Sometimes the AI gets confused and they make mistakes just like any sentient being. The rock garden provides a context to induce meditation on simulation, sentience, artifice and immateriality.

 

the Pocket Mazes involves various mazes of varying complexity inspired by pocket puzzles. The VR player has to solve all of them in order to advance to the next level.

 

the Rock Garden (Infinite Marc+grittes) involves infinitely spawning AI agents named 'Marcgritte', whose pronouns are they/them (a concatenation of Marcel Duchamp and Rene Margritte), have been tasked to catch the VR player as they explore an artificial rock garden. The VR player can navigate outside the bounds of the rock garden, but spawns back on the platform if they fall underneath the garden's lower environment. These quadruped artificial agents are comprised of elements from a previous level. The Marcgrittes can adaptively respond to obstacles and changes in its environment using a non-deterministic algorithm which is based upon a neural model formulated by reinforcement learning. Despite this, they are easily outmaneuvered by the VR player (for now).

the Liminal Space (Agent άλφα): Not a Pipe at the Threshold of Consciousness, is a room where a synthetic humanoid, Agent άλφα, has been imbued with some level of sentience by the training of a neural model through machine learning. This digital "Qi (氣)" drives the performance of Agent άλφα whose task is to stay at a state of ecstacy by touching the synthetic representation of a pipe with its digital body. The more times άλφα touches the higher their reward. An exit is provided to the VR player towards the end of a single stanza of the Buddhist mantra in order to get to the next room. The video above switches between training, real-time, and virtual reality based footage.


character study for "Agent άλφα":
a fragmented consciousness in a fragmented body,
a deprecated postmodern condition

the Liminal Space (Agent Qi/): Innocence, Agony, Ecstacy, is a room where Agent Qi attempts to caress the synthetic representation of infinity with its digital body. Through machine learning, Agent Qi has been imbued with some level of sentience by the training of a neural model. This digital "Qi/氣" drives the performance of Agent Qi where the more times Qi caresses the higher their reward. The video above switches between training, real-time, and virtual reality based footage. An exit is provided to the VR player towards the end of a single stanza of the Buddhist mantra in order to get to the next room.

 


character study for "Agent Qi/氣":
entity for the unification of the Heaven and the human
in the context of technics