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For Mysterious Minds, This Virtual Mecca Awaits

Artist and filmmaker Raphaël Moreira Gonçalves’s ‘Sfumato Memories’ marries late 70s sci-fi cinematography with a David Lynch vibe.

by DJ Pangburn
06 November 2015, 1:00pm

Images courtesy the artist

Exhibitions in virtual reality have appeared in the form of a generative art gallery, on Lucid Trips' dream planet Whateverland, and the free-for-all virtual space New New Wight. The latest entry in the VR gallery space is Raphaël Moreira Gonçalves Sfumato Memories, a virtual exhibition and world based on his short film Rouge Ultra.

Set in both the confined and expansive spaces in reality and virtual reality, Rouge Ultra explored the mind that shuttles between these various zones. It centers on a young man fascinated with morbid images, which act as the engines of catharsis for the memory of a friend’s death.

ROUGE ULTRA - teaser from Raphael Moreira Gonçalves on Vimeo.

In the short, Gonçalves was interested in exploring the “virtualisation of the world that the character imposed on himself in order to protect himself.” The virtual world and gallery Sfumato Memories is built upon this experimental narrative framework.

“It seems to me that today social relations and even the feeling of existence itself are being redefined through this ocean of images,” Gonçalves says of Rouge Ultra, which also holds true for his virtual art gallery, “as if, at the present time, what is in play is a switch towards a virtual elsewhere that is simply a superposition over the world we know, with its beauties and abyssal depths.”

Despite its digital textures, the beauties and abyssal depths in Sfumato Memories look like a blend of late 70s and early 80s science fiction and horror cinematography shot through with a David Lynch vibe. The virtual world and gallery’s avatar is the same character from Ultra Rouge. He wears the same black jeans, gray t-shirt and denim jacket 3D scanned with a Kinect device.  

In one room, bluish in color, sit geometric objects of unknown origin and purpose, though they could be the just virtual world analogs to our real world sculptural forms. In beautiful exterior space that is both blurred and in focus, a virtual avatar approaches a monolithic assemblage of forms, which may constitute, again, a sculpture. In yet another scene, the avatar can be found standing amidst a gray space, with various amorphous matter and spirals set in the foreground of a red flag.

To experience Sfumato Memories, users must download the Unity Web Player for Safari, Internet Explorer or Firefox. Desktop versions can also be downloaded for Mac OS X and Windows. Users can navigate by clicking their keyboard’s WASD keys or arrows; using the mouse to look around; hitting the space key to jump; and striking left-shift to run. Throwing a Samsung Gear, Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard into the mix should only add to the VR world’s trippiness factor.

Sfumato Memories from Raphael Moreira Gonçalves on Vimeo.

Click here to see more of Raphaël Moreira Gonçalves’s work.

Related:

Generative Video Game Puts You Inside Mind-Bending Art Galleries

The Virtual Art Gallery Levels-Up at UCLA

Enter a Virtual Art Gallery on the Dream Planet ‘Whateverland’