Reclaiming the metaverse
Dear friends and colleagues,
We’re shifting our focus. And we have some big things in the works. This newsletter will be a place for us to share our ideas, experiments, and production processes. Follow along as we set out to create the future of virtual experiences.
Wayne Ashley, Founder & Creative Director
Xander Seren, Product Director
Gaming has emerged as a dominant medium. And big tech companies have started to claim their place in the metaverse. But what does this mean for the future of art and cultural experiences? After 13 years of creating works for physical spaces, FuturePerfect Studio is taking on the virtual.
We are not new to the metaverse
For the past 18 years we’ve been invested in the emerging space of the metaverse. Long before its newsworthiness, we worked with a group of impassioned artists, architects, and filmmakers to exploit the tools, code, graphics, and even the programming errors of popular video games and virtual worlds to create new cinematic forms (Machinima), soundscapes, interactive performances, talk show formats, and art installations.
In 2003, at the invitation of New York Law School, then LMCC Curator of New Media Wayne Ashley sponsored the school’s first conference on Law, Games, and Virtual Worlds. And in 2006, together with the art collective Workspace Unlimited, he developed Breaking the Game, an online symposium that took place inside the still nascent metaverse of Second Life. The symposium brought together competing theorists and practitioners to dive deep into gaming and new possibilities for artistic practice. Workspace Unlimited embedded video interviews of the symposium inside a custom-built virtual world called Implant (2006).
Building on our early explorations of the metaverse, we founded FuturePerfect in 2008 with the goal of becoming a biennial festival offering commissions, residencies, workshops, and publications. We mapped out the new intersections of art, media, and technology in parks, warehouses, music venues, theaters, and online. We made works that confounded the separation of disciplines or entangled them in provocative ways.
We induced intense hallucinations in hundreds of audience members, invented new instruments for an underwater music concert, made theatrical interventions in public libraries, deployed databases and algorithms to generate new dramatic texts, and developed a live animation system for a French Shakespeare production using computer vision.
Returning to the virtual
Last March, with the pandemic, all of our work was put on pause and eventually cancelled. We once again returned to the virtual. We spent the next year researching, meeting with specialists, and experimenting with game engines, virtual reality, 3D scanning, photogrammetry, motion capture, volumetric video, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs.
We took time to review historical studies of immersive environments and virtual images. We were equally interested in the early illusionistic landscapes of the 18th century, the satellite video experiments like A Hole In Space (1980) that connected together the public spaces of Los Angeles and New York, as well as recent pop music experiences like Lil Nas X’s concert in the online video game Roblox.
Collaborating with William Kentridge
Out of this we defined a new VR project titled Starve the Algorithm with internationally acclaimed visual artist William Kentridge. He is a master of creating dialogues across multiple media including opera, theater, sculpture, drawing, and animation. But he had never worked with the virtual, and this excited us. We wanted to work with someone outside the gaming and entertainment industry who could challenge its tools and aesthetics.
Kentridge took us on a video tour through his studio and brought us to an extraordinary paper and cardboard miniature landscape that he had just completed. We immediately imagined walking through these fragile materials as avatars. Using photogrammetry and 3D scanning, we captured his maquettes and transformed them into hyperreal digital spaces. We scanned his entire studio and turned it into the site where Starve the Algorithm would unfold. We directed all of this remotely with teams across New York, Johannesburg, Dubai, London, and Taiwan.
We’re now showcasing a test of concept of Starve the Algorithm at Taiwan Creative Content Fest. Wearing VR headsets, participants navigate through an architecture of interlocking rooms including the artist’s studio, a kinetic theater, a hall of curiosity cabinets, and a crescendo of megaphones.
The final work will be distributed in 2023 and available for VR and desktop computers. This is the first in a series of projects by FuturePerfect that evolve the way audiences engage with cultural experiences in virtual worlds.
We want to share a behind the scenes look at our process of making this work. Below is a rough walkthrough video of the environment we’re beginning to build out.
Starve the Algorithm
A test of concept for a virtual work by William Kentridge in collaboration with FuturePerfect Studio.
Produced by THE OFFICE performing arts + film (New York / London) and FuturePerfect Studio (Brooklyn, NY). Developed with the support of Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA) and Jacob’s Pillow.
More information here.
This is just the beginning…
FuturePerfect Studio Team