Visual artist and filmmaker Filip Sterckx and painter Antoon Verbeeck work as a duo under the banner of the Skullmapping art collective. Using 3D mapping technology, the duo create experimental visuals using optical illusions and “extra dimensions,” creating immersive visuals of many shapes and structures.
In their latest work, “The Styx,” Sterckx and Verbeeck alter their artistic and technological modi operandi, fusing 3D mapping, Oculus Rift's virtual reality engine, and subtle real-life SFX into a mesmerizing multi-sensory experience.
Originally developed for Netherland's Leuven in Scène arts and fashion festival, held July 11-13th of this year, “The Styx” welcomed visitors into its midsts like a virtual reality version of Punchdrunk's Sleep No More. Arriving one-by-one at the venue at pre-determined times, each spectator was given a golden coin before being led into a room by a guide. Visitors were then asked to sit and put on an Oculus Rift and headphones.
Building off of the Ancient Greek myth of the River Styx—the waypoint between the living on Earth and the dead of the Underworld—Skullmapping pulls the spectator into an underground chamber in which they “awaken” in a small boat, greeted by Charon, the ferryman. Charon takes the spectator's golden coin, then steers the skiff into Hades.
To transport spectators into this immersive underworld, Skullmapping created a 360-degree virtual environment for the Oculus Rift, augmenting it with other multi-sensory experiences including stereophonic sound, touch, and smell.
As with previous projects “Delirium” and “Skeleton Dance”, Sterckx and Verbeeck 3D-scanned the interior space where the performance takes place, allowing spectators the ability to look around in the same interior space in which they began. 3D mapping, then, marks the portal between our living reality and Skullmapping's virtual representation of the Greek underworld.
The fusion between Oculus Rift and mapping technologies only has the potential to create more of these kinds of dissolutions of the barriers between real life and virtual reality. Perhaps someday soon, even a trip down the river Styx will seem like a day cruise.
Head over to Skullmapping's website for more awesome reality-bending projects.