- Client: Victoria University of Wellington
- Year: 2016
- Duration: 7 weeks
Years of experimenting with psychedelic altered states of consciousness combined with media design has brought me to develop this paralysingly interactive virtual reality journey through bizarre expanses. The intention of this project is to provide people with an immersive and interactive virtual reality experience which offers cognitive stimulation similar to the effects of psychedelic substances. In particular, it will focus on surreal visual and audible stimuli. This safe experience provides people without access to psychedelics, or who do not wish to take them, with the opportunity to experience a similar altered state of consciousness. In my opinion, the opportunity to experience psychedelic altered states in a safe environment with the right factors offers a multitude of beneficial opportunities including deep spiritual awakening and personal growth. The fact that substances like mescaline, THC and Psilocin are illegal despite being used in plant form for thousands of years by cultures around the world for spiritual and medicinal purposes is absurd. Despite the illegality of such drugs, it is legal to produce creative projects which attempt to re-enact the cognitive effects of such drugs.
With this in mind, my aim is to give people a brief two minute experience which truly represents what it can be like to take such substances whether it be stimulating or frightening. It takes the users into a bedroom where the visuals quickly become dreamlike and surreal as large abstract forms begin to obscure their vision from 360 degrees. Simultaneously, high pitched ringing echoes into the user’s ears as if they are ‘breaking through’ into a void of unknown hallucinations. The experience proceeds to pivot and turn in unexpected and unusual ways, eventually climaxing in a frightening fashion.
The user has the option of turning their head and observing the 360 degree rendered environment. However, as the camera is set to a key framed path, the user is able to enjoy and obtain the full experience by simply lying back and letting the experience immerse them. This idea of letting the experience guide you strongly relates to experiencing a psychedelic state of consciousness. If such an experience is fought against, this could promote a ‘bad trip’ or other unwanted psychological activity. Similarly, if the user fights this virtual reality experience they may experience motion sickness or miss an important moment in the narrative. To miss even the most frightening moments of such an experience would be a shame because when we endure such moments, we become stronger.
I believe this experience could benefit open minded people who want to better themselves, and are curious about pushing the boundaries of human cognition. This can apply, but is not limited to, creative people, artists, scientists and innovators. I believe once society becomes aware of the misinformation around psychoactive experiences, and realises the potential benefits, people from all walks of life will have reason to alter their states of consciousness.
A variety of softwares were used during the design process such as Maya, Mandelbulb 3D and After Effects. Maya plug-ins such as Mental Ray and Domemaster 3D were incorporated. A considerable amount of research into existing studies and design precedents related to recreating the effects of psychedelic drugs through digital technology was conducted. This led me to discover the software Mandelbulb 3D which is capable of effectively rendering fractal imagery. Essentially, fractals are never-ending, infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. Geometrically, they exist in between our familiar dimensions. Fractal patterns are extremely familiar, since nature is full of fractals. For instance they exist within trees, rivers, coastlines, mountains, clouds, seashells, and hurricanes, etc. They are also commonly seen throughout psychedelic experiences in the form of hallucinations and are at the forefront of human curiosity. They are created by repeating a simple process in an ongoing feedback loop. Driven by recursion, fractals are images of dynamic systems – the pictures of chaos. Mandelbulb 3D is a free software application created for 3D fractal imaging and was therefore the perfect place to begin creating.