Jakub Woynarowski, Jan K. Argasiński
The “Stilleben” project is a collective work of Jakub Woynarowski and Jan K. Argasiński, the members of a group of polish researchers, artists and programmers affiliated with the Ubu Laboratory at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland who focus their research on creative computing and platform studies. They also study ways for curating, presentation and preservation of such works.
Project “Hikikomori” created in 2007, by Jakub Woynarowski was the main inspiration for “Stilleben”. Aslo in posthuman graphic novel „The Dead Season” (2014), based on writings of Bruno Schulz, Woynarowski presented a utopian world, which, in the absence of humans, is ruled by objects, plants and little creatures. Second main source of inspiration were 17th century still life paintings (german: “Stilleben”), depicting mostly inanimate subject matter, in which the state of ‚death’ reveals also to be a kind of ‚silent life’ and works such as Matthaus Merian’s illustrations for Robert Fludd’s treatise “Utriusque cosmi… historia”.
The key notion for many visual quests of Jakub Woynarowski – the author of “Stilleben’s” artistic concept – is abstraction, in its broad sense. He is interested in the images of objects that are taken to the level of abstract symbols, yet the degree of their figurativeness is determined by ever-changing context. The author of “Hikikomori” attempts to create a sort of visual alphabet based on everyday objects that were devoid of reality. While searching for some stimulating analogies between them, their forms were “rounded off” to extract their abstractive potential out of the realistic, instructional drawings. Due to their excessive synthesis, quasiobjective technical illustrations became ambiguous and evolved into non-objective art. An illustrative example could be a print showing a black circle, which actually could be a depiction of anything – a shadow, a hole, or a liquid stain. In the structure of the whole elaborate visual essay these discrete elements became letters that could be arranged in various configurations to freely make up various words. Jakub Woynarowski developed this language of semi-abstract signs in his experimental visual narratives, whose forms resemble visual essays, atlases or graphic novels. Usually he doesn’t portray a human figure, focusing only on objects that belong to him. The leitmotif of these projects are the three basic geometric shapes: triangle, square and circle. In “Stilleben” the oppositions seem to be interconnected. Even the Genesis and Apocalypse are closely linked: through the dynamic metamorphosis an empty white cube becomes a luxuriant garden. The story of “Stilleben” is a universal tale of the passage of energy and impermanence of forms, which disintegrate and keep reviving in new shapes.
The implementation of the presented project has three components: a) physical space of action, b) computing hardware (inc. VR headset) and c) software application. Ad a) For the Stilleben VR „exposition” the dedicated room was built inside Ubu Laboratory at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. The room is the exact equivalent of the white Cube od Space – the basic, sterile and claustrophobic place depicted on the before presented storyboards. The physical space of the experience is precisely matched in dimension with the virtual one. This means that if a user encounters a wall in virtual space – he will also encounter it in the real world. The room is closed, and the doors are in the same place „in both dimensions”. This allows for the creation of a real sense of isolation, which is crucial for the designed experience. In the room, apart from that, there is only virtual reality equipment, which is hanged at the ceiling on a flexible cable. Ad. b) Computing hardware includes state of the art PC located outside of the “VR box” and HTC Vive with two Lighthouse Trackers (base stations) and two controllers. Ad. c) VR software was developed in Unity engine (C# programming language) using VRTK – Virtual Reality Toolkit package from Asset Store. Application allows for free movement in virtual space and for interactions with objects (including physics of objects).