Unedited conversations between artist in a productive critique discovering thesis and processes behind the work.
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Items in Varied Renders solo exhibition at IRL Institute in Miami
CASTANEDA: Hi Olivia, here whenever you're ready
RAMOS: hi Leo - thank you for joining me
i am super excited to talk about your work
and the future of VR and AR
CASTANEDA: Haha! Thank you for inviting. Likewise looking forward to discussing these subjects.
RAMOS: let's start form the end - where do you think this technology can take us?
CASTANEDA: Without the subjectivity of what is good and what is bad, this technology might lead humans to a state of multiplicity of self. We already experience this through our various social media personalities, yet through lower levels of immersion. At it's peak, VR and AR will create a set of experiences where a core point of view from a human gets to "be" objects, gods, other humans, data, ect.
The body as a vehicle that we are used to experiencing the world could be one of many manifestations of what a body could be. I can't say if this will have a positive or negative impact of society.
People say VR is the ultimate empathy machine, AR will be a socially accepted set of delusions...The question is if our brains can handle it when electricity is just over 100 years old...
RAMOS: right and if i understand it, once VR reaches the resolution of the real world, or vision, we won't be able to tell reality from virtual reality - at which point it will get a bit confusing
our brains are quite flexible, when you refer to us being able to handle it or not, is it really the brain or our emotional state that is at risk?
CASTANEDA: Yes, VR aims at the resolution of the real world. I'm sure we're still 10+ years away from that but it will get confusing.
In VR research there is the holy grail of "presence". Even in it's current "early" pixelated stage, VR already fools primal brain instincts such a vertigo, where we consciously know we are in one room but the brain accepts the VR as real.
I agree that our brains are flexible and should adapt. I think more than anything it's the emotional state.
It might be super empowering and empathetic to know one can experience being so many things, even if filtered through one's subjectivity.
However, people that think they are many individuals in one body or hear voices are at the present state thought of as mentally ill.
It is up for grabs if people walking around reaching for virtual objects, or skype walking with their hologram friends across the globe, or meeting at a distant galaxy's pebble for breakfast is within our capability. Just thinking of these tells me that we are already capable of such through our imagination, but the question is if when immersed, when the brain is fooled of those realities if we can handle it.
sorry if this is a rant ☺
RAMOS: not a rant at all
i am currently studying exponential technologies at Singularity University and apparently we are closer than we think regarding real life resolution
there is also haptic suits in development that will allow us to feel the virtual world - which can be extremely powerful in tricking the psyche
i think everyone is capable to being multiple characters at once, in fact i believe we are very good at it already
how do you feel about complete neglect of the physical world?
CASTANEDA: Woah, really, like how long till real life resolution, less than 10 years?
Yes, the haptic suits make sense, I try to address that with my work actually though at a limited technical scale for now. Just looked at the printer in my room and wondered how a haptic suit could interpret a printer avatar...
As far as neglect from the physical world...I guess if VR can be like many other technologies we will have people that spend all their time in it and those who don't. I really hope the value of the real world is not overshadowed but more complimented by VR. There is too much to offer from the real world that shouldn't be simulated. What VR allows though is the material distribution of goods to go from physical to virtual, something that might be good for the planet. If you want to live in a virtual skyscraper you just build it or pay for others time, but there is no mountain or forest that was sacrificed to build it.
The Korean incident is sad. Hopefully that doesn't happen too often or theres an emergency robot to take care of the child.
I've met the director of the documentary "Love Child" about that case if you ever want to contact her.
As creepy as the emergency robot sounds, there is a chance that AI is better at taking care of the environment and external earth than we are.
RAMOS: I think there will be many cases in which people will not be responsible for the physical world and their surrounding
and agree that AI will be a great way to leverage that responsibility
it is going to be interesting to see how we teach Ai
because if for example, it learns to deeply care for nature, it might decide it is better off without humans.. that's an extreme case
but no a impossibility
if on the other hand we teach the AI that we come first, they will only be extensions of our destruction
maybe that's a harsh assumption
there are many cases already of AI taking care of elders and there are some controversies there... mostly out of neglect from their children
CASTANEDA: Whoa, all these thoughts give me near-future-uncertainty vertigo.
Lets hope that by the time we teach the AI to take care of nature that we are also doing so through sustainable energy and more. That way we are allies and they are extensions of our conservation efforts.
RAMOS: yes - we shall see how we transfer our moral compass to our new intelligent companions
so how does your work enter this conversation?
how do you see your work contributing to the future?
Leo CastanedaItems in Varied Renders solo exhibition at IRL Institute in MiamiMixed Media
CASTANEDA: Indeed, we will have to really evaluate that compass because we have such polar views within humanity already.
Hmm, work wise...let's see. I'll start with the latest show
I just did a show in Miami titled Items in Varied Renders that explored images and objects stuck in a feedback loop from physical to virtual.
The main objects depicted by the paintings, VR and wearable sculptures were described as "Items" and are designs for wearable computers for looking at VR.
The virtual space in the show was a plan for future furniture computers that highlight the odd relationship we have with VR headsets and their controllers.
Framed through highly designed yet alien devices.
In a living room space in the VR we see still figures plugged into their VR couches. The room appears full yet no one is interacting.
The question is though, what those figures in the space are seeing, are they maybe elsewhere in dialogue. It is unknown. It is also unknown if they are not objects in of themselves since the sculptures are just as alive or dead as them...
I guess this relates to the conversation...
Also, I'm quite interested in the vocabulary of gaming and its implications outside of it. Characters I've worked with before are called "bosses" like videogame antagonists, and areas "levels". In a sort of corporate, cyber mythology, a pantheon of "bosses" is reinterpreted throughout the work. Some in the case of the latest work end up as furniture designs. There is a whole loop of becoming different beings that happens in the work and the deconstruction of videogame principles is a good key for it.
The contribution is yet unknown as it is also subjective if the work is positive or negative. My highest artistic goal though is to create VR/videogame only artworks that really explore the potential of that medium and it's Internet based distribution platform. VR experiences should be as good as any great painting, novel or film before them.
RAMOS: i am working my brain pretty hard to bring all your words together into an intention - and i find it intriguing to think of VR experiences as you would a painting.
and I want to question that - because the experience of a painting is sometimes beyond what we see
CASTANEDA: Sorry, I can probably go back in there and clarify.
Painting is for sure a precursor to VR.
RAMOS: do you believe that painting is a precursor to television?
CASTANEDA: It is just limited in interactivity and immersion. Yes, painting is a precursor to photography which is a precursor to TV.
That is not to say they trump one another, each still specializes and becomes deeper when the next emerges as a tool to show reality.
RAMOS: let me see - there's something that doesn't sit well here - i think portraits and still-life can be precursors of photography but not painting in general
there is so much more a painting can do that photography can't
i would say that theatre is a precursor of VR more so than painting
CASTANEDA: I agree that painting can do much more than photography, but much of the innovation that happened in painting was after photography emerged. Once photography existed, then painting was led to impressionism, modernism, conceptual art and more to where it is now. Painting needed the new medium of photography to really understand what it had to offer.
I think VR has all the mediums embedded, it definitely has a lot from theater, though theater sets gain a lot from painting and architecture, so it combines them all.
RAMOS: ok then - having all the tools of painting, theater, photography, writing, and video - what do you want to get across the user?
you have described all the tools
as an artist what is your intention beyond the mere use of this tool in the art world?
Leo CastanedaItems in Varied Renders solo exhibition at IRL Institute in MiamiMixed Media
CASTANEDA: You are good at going for the big questions. I guess the intention goes back to the way gaming sets up hierarchies and roles of the self (levels and bosses). I want to put users into the perspectives of antagonists, objects and textures. I want them to leave the work really questioning their role as a subject and individual. To make them feel empowered yet powerless.
RAMOS: make me think you are trying to dematerialize the role of a person - not only with the media but making them feel like objects for example... does that make sense?
like what does it feel like to be a rock on the ground - well you kind are anyway?
is that what you mean?
CASTANEDA: Yes, exactly.
While also simulating an above human perspective, like an AI or god.
RAMOS: or God... nice - let's talk about that
how would you describe God's perspective of the world?
CASTANEDA: Woah, I am not religious so wouldn't be speaking of a traditional god. I just think it's the idea of projecting a conscious perspective on all points in the universe at the same time, maybe across all times. Should be unachievable by VR but it's something to play with.
RAMOS: lol, ok ok you mentioned God so i was just wondering
i think working towards that perspective would be an amazing experience
even if people don't understand what they are looking at
especially if people don't understand what they are looking at
CASTANEDA: lol, maybe we can say trying to see how the Internet as a being feels like.
Yes, it'll likely be incomprehensible.
Unless we get brain implants and merge with the AI.
RAMOS: which is totally on the pipeline, according to Ray Kurzweil