A virtual reality/augmented reality hybrid performance opera/ballet.
Martin Rieser/ Andrew Hugill
Secret Garden is an attempt to recreate a contemporary version of the Eden myth in the midst of an urban environment. It will be available in two versions –a physical installation and as a virtual mobile experience linked to selected site locations. In its installation aspect, it will comprises eleven mounted iPads acting as viewports distributed around a circle in the Cube gallery at Phoenix Square. Peering into one of the viewports will trigger a view of an idyllic three-dimensional scene in the ‘Secret Garden’ and tell part of the mythical story of the Fall, through words, music and dance. This same content will soon be made available using Augmented Reality software to any visitor with a smartphone.
The Fall story is common to many of the world’s religions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The structure of Secret Garden will be loosely modelled on the ten paths of the Sephirot in the Jewish telling of the story, which is itself also a symbol of the Tree of Life and the oldest extant version. Two contemporary human figures re-enact the story of the Fall, combining sung poetry and video vignettes with 3D generated environments, each scene distributed to a different one of the eleven iPad viewports. The viewer’s presence triggers both music and action.
The texts comprise original poems that tell this classic story in a timeless and relevant way, examining choices in a fallen world. The musical composition is adaptive and features vocal settings and digitally treated percussion. The virtual scenography consists of 3D designs based on an idealised garden space, inspired by the 19th century Mezzotints for Milton’s Paradise Lost by John Martin. Viewing the eleven viewports will gradually assemble the elements of a story in the user’s mind. The story is mysterious and mythical in nature, however, it is not necessary to see the viewports in any particular order, and a partial viewing will also provide a complete experience in itself.
The installation is a unique virtual reality amalgam of poetry, music, and 3D panoramic images and motion-captured avatars. It plays with sound narrative and myth, transposed into a modern context, using technology both in production and delivery in a synthesised and holistic capacity. Audience movement from viewport to viewport will trigger vocal settings of authored verse and head movements change the scene perspective in realtime.
The Institute Of Creative Technologies (IOCT) at De Montfort University supported the project. The IOCT specialises in cross-disciplinary working that combines science and technology with the arts and humanities. The project will draw on expertise from the Faculties of Art & Design, Humanities and Technology, including the Fused Media Lab (for the virtual scenography), the Architecture Department (for the physical build of the installation), students on the Games Design degree (for the interactivity) and the Music, Technology and Innovation Research Centre (for the music). Management will be provided by Professor Andrew Hugill (Director of the IOCT) and Professor Martin Rieser (Professor of Digital Creativity), who are the creators of Secret Garden.