Maria Lantin | mlantin
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April 21 Detail of Materials

Epic Walk Diaries (April 21)

circumvent the upper class
   kin yet rejected
  not prepaid
      private you know

musqueam welcome
     he said river
  walking good
    a dog rides cheerful
 meander to laughter
      family

tidal flats
   pretend easy
 bones say otherwise
      dispersed vertebrae
   skull     memories of eyes
     spineful finale

stick to the grass!
   mud traps and chasms
  oil underlay
 rivulets    at some scale
     rivules really
  follow the line serpentine
       algorithmic life art merger

reed waves
    rise and drape
   hide and house
  red winged black birds
     check check
 bushtits pootiweet
  do we only hear alarm calls?

human detritus
   photogenic barrels and balls
      easter gloves
 reed mud life asserts
    life wins
      patient

stoic sentinel field
  ritual ancestors
    stand orderly
  skeletal
      siren song
   mud bounce

 d e t o u r

chasm labyrinth 
   go left!
 stick to the grass
   leap!
    part the typha forest
  log highways
     positively running now

surprise opening
  listening oasis
 layers of song

greenery boundary
  contrasting relief
 honest map check
    grit to origin

taunting brambles
 brambles mud
   brambles branches
  brambles reeds
    brambles roses
  cedar saviors
      water bombs

coloured goals
   pull
 sorrel  irises
    yellow  white  pink
  just unwrapped green
      horsetail forests
    nettles
   awake awake awake

up the creek
  cedar root path
   fern handles
 red berry finish
     i hope you laugh

--
[
  Start 1:15pm
  End 6:05pm
  Avoid the colonial greens,
  to Musqueam cultural rotunda,
  meet the dog, witness the egg hunt,
  down to the river flats.
  around and around up and down backwards
  leaping slipping sinking
  scrambling brambling
  backward tracking to the creek
  remembered climb back to colonial greens.
  Encounter on private land, you know.
  road to Lola with unexpected forest walk.
]
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Feb 25 details of materials

Epic Walk Diaries (February 25)

unscrambled trail
   local sun muse
       stay away
        the edge the ground
     may give way
     
giving in
  sliding to low tide
   the city out of the girl
       out of bounds
        boundless
  bounding soft
     into moss
         turkey tail!
       under trees
 picking through snags
  snapping twigs
       the path

seeing double
   wondering still
   what is not seen
       undisturbed
      unpicked
   unknown

cauliflower mushroom ears
  corals of many generations
    soft
       colonized green
   between land and sea

eagle down feathers
   a good omen or
       death
     soft silvery
       bundles

       steps away
          a duck head
       dappled by the sun
   mistaken for a flower

musical snakes
   ancient ribbed hollows
     polyester original
  pull tok! pop a cork
    scouring rush

parting the bullrushes
    into waves of bleached ecru
  vectors of tides gone-by
      rogue log paths
          an invitation to fall
    unexpected freedom
 joyful anarchy
   bodies holding 

pull up your crazy pants
   round the point
     go up the delta
        oh Freud
 you missed half the fun

crumbling the rust cigars
   exposing soft nests
        snow
     seeds into wind

quiet irregular thumps
    woodworking
  human like
     chips fall from above
 perky upright redhead
   eating nesting 
      beautiful winged flight
  apologies 

oasis surprise
   lawn   log     tree
     perfect for a picnic
 untouched

boundary creek
   parallel tree crossings
 musqueam now
    forward and up
      breathless
   green groomed
        white

------
[
  Start 12:30pm
  End 4:46pm
  Still existing mushroom marker to
  soothsayer, pass Lola again,
  back to mushroom
  scramble down to trail
  obstinately remain despite every kind of obstacle
  side road to bullrushes, logjams
  meandering onto the trail and back to shore
  crossing into Musqueam land
  scrambling up to Shaughnessy Golf Course
  onto the greens, jumping the fence
  onto Marine Drive, back to Forbidden road
  and Lola.
]
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Epic Walk Jan 20

Epic Walk Diaries (January 20)

       no shoulder check
no head either
     the scanner is an alto now
  it will not have a post-humanist future
because it can't scan itself

 who gets on the post-humanist ark?
only the snowflakes
      because they don't resist
     the ark needs flexing
  geraniums barely made it

white berries call
   in soprano
               we resist
      you are post-human enough
 algorithmically infinite

a formal man
      sitting
      inviting not inviting
   a simple lack of complexity
        simplisticated

here mom can you pick this up?
   the crushed beer cans whimper
  burnt
        no need to look
        they will find you
  the labour of having you
    so valuable
      suddenly
      temporarily

tugboats pull 
  loving the strain
      bragging of old tech
  and log drivers
  herding lost trees
    mysteriously organic
      pre-humanists

off trail complexity
 soil as snow
  attention honed 
     a funny dance
        with the brambles
        ferns roots logs
        natural boost 
    bounce
    to dark velvety curves
       of cloudy chocolate 
 mushroom 

jaguar
jaguar
jaguar
where are you going
meeting
on the forbidden road

sanctioned trail
next time

-----
[
  Start 2:10pm
  End 4:30pm
  Forbidden road to trail 7
  down forbidden stairs
  along the almost delta shore
  amongst the logs, reeds, and tugboats
  up the off road on hands and knees
  to the mushroom marker
  forbidden road
  farther from lola
  at least three jaguars further
]
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Epic Walk Diaries (January 6)

rovers range
in the land
  of range rovers
   tailgates
   how we morally suffer
     and laugh

delta seeking
  not quite there
    not yet
   we walk on role playing
      trails
  walking as mother
   as canadian not canadian
 loner

a hollowed trunk
  tunnels to fresh Starbucks
 car tire support
    surprise to one
  detail to another

miniature forests
  of primitive intruders
    horsetails
 primitive
   needs re-valuation

logs wounded
 colours of blood and fire
  the storm disrupted
    for us
    you need mostability
 "don't take the lower trail"
  we do
   treasures of lichen bullrushes
     tiny brown mushrooms
       mother lode
     skeletons of summer

? what is that ?
   an urban translucent orange
    slimed
      chewed gummy bear
  fungalien

buds on sideway trees
  mushroom forests
    a mostability of life
 everywhere

this time
  yes to geraniums

exit through disobedience
  water falls
    sounds to remove noise
   fractioned into our phones

 ---
[
  Start 2:11pm
  End 4:20pm
  Fraser lot to trail 6
  Wreck beach expanse with log jam
  through storm disrupted lands
  lower forbidden trails
  lots of mud
  to designated smoking area
  treasures of washed in sand
  perfect for sand castles
  through obstacle courses
  makeshift bridges
  to trail 7 and gushing waterfall
  up forbidden stairs
  onto forbidden road
  back to Lola (and 49th)
]
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Details of gathering

Epic Walk Diaries (November 28)

oh shit it's pooop
  you thought it would be
   pure
   delight
   special
   seashell, long and twisted
nope
poop

many things presenting
 as solid
   are not
    others shimmer
  surreal 

i want to stick out
  my tongue
   at everybody
 today   as a totem

two lively eagles
 don't mind

a generous soul
  feeds graceful hunger
  a threat of ending
brings a swarm of need
    he ducks
      throws up
 his last crumbs

blackberry flower
 pertinacious
   memories of summer
  sheltering a hopping bird

wandering onto slipperiness
  our luck will run out
 back to the bed of leaves

double bubble pink
  pot pop pop pot
 so pink
   urban pop up

a natural stake
   pointed
  we speak of death
 small and big
    shocks
   pieces and parts
 a claw
   a body
  a mollusk
    a shoe
        nothing is lost
 it sure seems so

waves
 rest
   in soothing suprise
   sitting
   sitting
   pondering
   unexplained
   distant yellow
   no need to explain
   sit

------
[
  Start 3:07pm
  End 4:52pm
  Nod at the monument, thoughts
  of campus police, onward to MOA,
  to the backyard looking for the way back
  to the end point, thwarted by mansion,
  back to the totems sticking out many tongues,
  new stairs to wreck beach, trail 4 for small people,
  along the beach, round the point,
  to the breakwater and log jam, trail 6 up the stairs,
  along marine drive, back to MOA and Lola.
]
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gathered materials

Epic Walk Diaries (November 18)

monochrome golden
  determination
delightfully interruped
     by
 sari orange
pink orange
 red or turmeric
   yes but shimmery

it's like a two-shelled
  berry
    the inner berry is
     ummm orange
 sari orange

the sweetness of mom

 frost! November
muck
  so satisfying
   imagine being barefoot

listen look
    a calling bird
  brambles
   silence    we wait
   leaves quiver
 weaving as hopping
  as small as a finch

we want order
  no chaos
 no, chaos
   chaos!!!!

fear
  the ultimate investigation?
 or one like any other
   which tunnel to go down
 do all tunnels lead to...
  no head?

layers of white
  fireweed forests
 curled by gravity
    hooked by brambles
     so much stuff
  that can be grabbed onto
 don't worry. they love you.

the absence spoken
 of skeleton leaves
   tissue-like   materialized
  the magic of attention

defiant yellow
  untriggered!
    brilliant life burst
   in brown entropy
 a tertiary display

the rest of canada hates us

----------
[
  Start 2:30pm
  End 4:30pm
  Pacific Spirit lot, back to Acadia beach,
  up Marine, back to the lot,
  past the sunlighted streams,
  a close brush with wreck beach,
  up to the burrowing grove,
  zig zag through trees, cliffs, brambles
  back down burrowing grove,
  and the lot.
  hello lola.
]
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details of our gathering during the walk.

Epic Walk Diaries (November 11)

remember
  white berries
red berries
 those were rosehips
  you took a picture?
I saw the depth

a round tree
memories of holly
 a premonition

marry me
    gold plastic inflates
      the mockery of what happens
    after
  the layers of why
 did you ever wonder? no
the rings were watered with champagne
 we drank them on Mykonos by the sea

eulogic writing
  for her 
    for him?
  for them? zest
    in quotes "" 
  shifts her to him maybe?
     we're just happy it's warm
 we can barely make it out
 Francis. yes. Francis.

my mother(tm) hates my driving
 oh dear. half dead flowers
   in a beer bottle? no mug.
 I returned it.
for money? no.
    who does that?

[  ...time..
 we do. ungraciously.
  the flowers alive still
 a toxic time warp
  a leap into generosity
]

my father built a whole church
 out of nothing
  i preach in his image
   admiring and cringing
ugh
 the proud defiant chin jutting out

a path to riches and tackiness
 a mazeratti wanting to be nissan
  an eagle and bear, this path
  my house.

shit
 narrowly avoided

chestnuts 
  crazy bounty for no one
 maladapted
  but for horses?
    some know the secret trees
   in kitsilano

a knotty Holly tree
 oozing in slow motion
near the wealth
  we will email you

-------
[
  Start 2:15pm
  End 4:45pm
  Jericho beach, millionaire path deadend,
  back to Spanish banks,
  Acadia beach, through the sand,
  the end of the trail, and back.
]
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Epic Walk Sep 3 (gatherings)

Epic Walk Diaries (September 3)

moby moby x2 maybe
not sure how much got in
science is constrained creativity
  art bounces off people
  science bounces off the universe

fear 
i can't do this
no truer words
  don't worry, it'll come back
  then you die again

 none of this is ours
   or theirs damnit
   be bold
peasant grass
  you let yourself go
designer grass
   tight weave
upscale private grass
    small bred patterns
   even your color says good dna
 look where you get to be
cartoon rich

the sound of peasant grass
  crickets and walking feet

rose petal feast
  mom, her jam and pastry

pineapple plant
  it does smell like pineapple!
    keith loved it

discarded fragments
  more fragments
   pattern! source!
a nut? a flower
   yes with seeds
     opened in quarters
       two quartered seeds
     look at the ground

  not so good with transitions
    sprint!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      run to the finish line and jump
   no no ritual endings

-----

[
  Start 5:26pm
  End 9:00pm
  Through kits beach, pool, sunset point
  brambles, rich road, Jericho, Spanish Banks,
  concession, and back.
]
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Epic Walk gathering (detail)

Epic Walk Diaries (August 26)

no emergency
   i wait
   the whole world should be like this

emergent conflict
motivation
   why did they do that?
 why did we?
     how do we stay light? dance in the storm.

  what is a good life?

look a pine cone
    what are those red berries? (go fish)
searching
 too many cooks
 surprise! celebrity chef

remnants of an old woman
  but it's a baby feather!

        you're not a beach bunny!
    groomed wild
  let's bring the scanner on our walks
   scan in the wild
     like nico and her microphone

log going to rusty red dust
   flow embedded in captured time
   a method to the destruction

  hawthorn, the thorn part is important

that's a lot of leaves
   so many
     natural or not? groomed? maple?
   tagged! Holly's project!
     someone else liked this tree
maybe many someones. what to email a bushy tree?

butterfly bush
  my nose is happy
    you were always there
   a few feet away
flow and temporality
  does a few hours matter
    to us? to the plants?
 when is integrity called into question

 dusty thoughts
don't worry, I'll put them in water

---
[ 
  Start 6:45pm at Eagle Tree
  End   9:45pm parting on Creelman
  Through Vanier, Elsje's point, 
    Kitsilano Beach, rich man's road,
    Jericho Beach, rabbit land,
    and back.
]
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Being With Picture

I don’t remember exactly when but at some point in my earlier years I started imagining myself entering the pictures in my picture books. Someone would be reading to me and I would zone into the picture and wish I could step in. I would look at every detail and wonder what else there was. Franfreluche, a clown storyteller from a children’s tv show, did exactly that and I would watch her enviously. I wanted those giant storybooks that I could step into.

This curiosity about “being with” picture still animates me. To be clear I didn’t want to have an interactive picture world. I wasn’t interested in a game. I was interested in the sense of space, the colours, the world the characters were in. I wanted to see them do their thing while fully sensing their environment. A modest wish. Theatre and other live performances do this to a degree. We share a space and it is partially determining the performance. A crucial dimension to the pleasure of liveness is that we feel entangled with the performers through a shared space. Still with theatre there is a conceptual distance imposed by the stage. The characters’ world is not wholly accessible. In a way, films and books do a better job of immersion because they specifically ask us to dim some senses in order to merge on others. With live performance, our senses are awake and the merge or resonance happens through a more physical entanglement.

What I seek then is something in between theatre and movie, or between theatre and book. I want the merge/resonance of a book with the feeling of physical entanglement with all my senses awake. I do want to lose myself in the story. But I want to do so as a fully engaged observer.

Enter VR. The promise of the merge. In all its incarnations, we talked about immersion, like sinking into water, being surrounded by our imagination. And yet…not quite. Something is missing. The worlds are empty somehow, happening “out there” even as they surround us. We have readily adapted the gaming paradigm to the current VR platforms but so far have largely stayed away from the book or the theatre. But I have recently encountered two examples that are steering towards a “being with” picture. They have both made me happy, like discovering a new land that just feels interesting and that I always knew existed.

Cave is a piece showcased at SIGGRAPH 2018, by NYU’s Future Reality Lab (FRL). In this piece an audience of 30 people is positioned in two seated groups of fifteen pointed towards a front centre “stage” area. Each audience member dons a headset with headphones (or specialized Bose personal speakers). As soon as I put mine on I could see the other audience members as a virtual audience, their heads and bodies moving. We are not the usual avatars. We are semi-transparent, with large skeletal masks on our heads. The audience heads are tracked to their physical movements so I can look at my neighbour and if they are looking at me I would know to start a conversation. There was enough time before the show that I could do this, and I could also observe the world in which we had all been plunged: a prehistoric cave 12,000 years ago in Northern Europe. A young girl is illuminating the cave wall as (presumably) her mother is drawing on the wall. A soft humming song plays. It feels dim. It doesn’t feel cold though I suppose it must have been. I feel like there is a warm glow of a fire. It feels good to know that I am experiencing this shared space with others and that I can see them looking at different details of the cave. A few minutes later, the characters in the scene fade, and the show starts. The girl comes down from a ladder into the cave. She lights a fire and explains that her people are in grave danger and that they need a new shaman. Her mother was the last great shaman and she doubts if she possesses the same powers. As the story proceeds she transitions from doubt to confidence and activates her abilities to imagine and animate cave paintings. Along the way there is a magical mammoth, a visit from her mother, and handfuls of fairy dust. There were no cuts.

I saw Cave twice and the first time I was analyzing it from the perspective of someone who had just discovered a place where anything could happen. I looked around, I looked at the other people, I observed people as the “play” started, I looked for the intricacies of the movements of the characters, the voice, the sound quality. I wanted to sense the world I was in. How much detail was there? How many times could I watch this and still be enthralled? Why was I even asking these questions? The container was interesting and it was separate but wholly entangled with the story unfolding in front of me. Like theatre. But also like film. And like comic book. Not like a game. fascinating. The second time I saw Cave I decided to focus on the story. Could I be with the story and feel like we had been transported to her world as ghost witnesses? It turns out that the answer to that is “sometimes but not always”, and I think this is because it borrowed a bit too much from theatre at times, and a bit too much from film at others. There were amazing moments like a hug that was so well animated you could almost feel the brush of the hands against cloth and the gentle envelop of an embrace. We had time to linger and appreciate. In general, the timing of the piece was of theatre, with a slower more deliberate delivery (in fact the dialogue followed a Shakespearean iambic pentameter). It could have been even slower given the capacity of the space to speak for itself. I would have liked more detail in the movement or more expressiveness. It felt a little too much like theatre in the seating configuration. I wish I had been cross-legged on the cave floor with others strewn around me also seated on the ground. Though I recognize the desire to match physical situation (seated on a chair) with the virtual representation. I felt taken out of the moment when the music became too orchestral, too Disney-like. In a film, the music would have been appropriate for the moment but in this context it overwhelmed the space which was already providing many emotional cues. In that moment, focusing on complex environmental sounds might have served the same purpose as big orchestral sound in film. Still there were moments where tropes from film were very well integrated including magical visual effects. I think I could watch it a third time and still find something interesting. This is the first time I have felt this way about a VR piece.

To me, Cave is about “being with” picture. And yet it’s not moving pictures, it’s dancing space. I can see so many ways forward to explore the story space that FRL has opened. Many questions come to mind. What exactly is essential to what they created? Co-located audience? How many people before it’s too few or too many? Could some of the audience be less physically present (networked in)? Could the audience be moving around?  The possibilities for the space are also interesting. The audience could disappear. There could be cuts into different spaces including internal conceptual spaces. Once a world is created, it could be re-used for a number of stories, details filled in, characters introduced. This then starts to feel more like a comic book world: episodic and vast. I can also see the possibility of this kind of theatre/film/comic book mix in Mixed Reality. The questions then centre around how site-specific the story becomes, how much “liveness” is introduced into the story either through AI or other performative means.

The other piece that has changed the way I look at VR and space is Dami And Falian, a VR graphic novel being created by Edward Madojemu in the Basically Good Media Lab at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Edward is creating a completely hand-drawn virtual world (drawn in AnimVR and Quill) where the world progresses in slices of time like a graphic novel. There are speech bubbles and portals in space and time. Within a slice of time you can explore the world, walk around. In that sense it feels a bit like Myst. There remains many questions to answer with regards to the design of a VR graphic novel including when a speech bubble appears/disappears, the orientation of speech bubbles, the use of sounds, the integration of object interaction. Yet the feeling of entering a world which exists regardless of the actions being enacted within it, is strong and interesting much like Cave. Edward has chosen to also integrate networked and social elements to Dami And Falien. You can leave notes in the environment and explore with someone else. This work is nascent and it’s unclear where it will land in the mix of theatre, film, comic, and game. Edward is in Generation Z. I am curious to see where his vision takes him and us.

As Dr. Ken Perlin of the Future Reality Lab reminded me in conversation, our generation has been heavily influenced by film and it is hard to see how much of what we do is driven by those tropes and visual conventions. I see Cave as an integration of past cultural loves and Dami And Falian as an integration of niche media, towards the creation of truly immersive spaces.

 

Links:

Future Reality Lab (their blog has followed the development of Cave as seen through the eyes of the production team)
Cave XR
Dami and Falian
Basically Good Media Lab

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