A Topological Slide


Stewart Dickson and I collaborated on creating the Topological Slide VR installation as part of the Art and Virtual Environments project at the Banff Centre for the Arts. The project grant provided support for a talented and dedicated team to work with us in fully realizing the project. Topological Slide premiered at the Fourth International Conference on Cyberspace (4CYBERCONF) held at the Banff Centre from May 20-22, 1994. Documentation of the project can be found in the MIT Press book Immersed in Technology: Art and Virtual Environments edited by Mary Anne Moser and Douglas MacLeod.

The Topological Slide website was created many years ago (before the advent of CSS coding) and I have eventually moved it to another host –leaving its funky old-school table-based formatting in place out of design nostalgia.  Many of the 20th Century links are hopelessly broken here in the 21st Century.

I proposed the Topological Slide for the Art and Virtual Environments project because I felt that it was the most practical option given the state of VR technology at that time. My earliest –and continuing– interest in VR has been in  the potential for extending my work with absolute animation into the immersive space of VR.  In 1991 I presented a paper entitled: My Work in Absolute Animation and Some Ideas About Extending that Work into the New Medium of Virtual Reality at a conference in Moscow.  In 1996 I presented an updated section from that paper —Absolute Animation and Immersive VR— at The Governor’s Conference on the Arts VII: Arts, Entertainment and Technology; The Role of the Artist in the Digital Age held in Los Angeles.  Thanks to the talents the brilliant young programmer, Elijah Kleeman, and others, I am currently working on a project that implements some of the ideas on gestural animation performances presented at those conferences.  On 7 June 2017 I debuted an early version of that project, Anaphorium, in a live demonstration at the end of a presentation on my work during the Symposium L’ART DES GENERIQUES:Territoire d’auteurs-créateurs held in the Grand Amphi d’ISIS Ecole d’ingénieurs in Castres, France .

The innovative physical interface of the Topological Slide was a particular aspect of the project that distinguished it from other immersive works of the time.  The following description is taken from the original grant proposal for the project:

“The ‘rider’ will wear a head mounted display enabling an interactive wide-angle stereo view of a three-dimensional space.  The space will consist of a model of a topological surface to which the platform is bound and upon which it is free to slide.  The ‘rider’ may traverse the model’s surface by leaning in the direction in which she desires to move.  The amount of lean in a given direction will determine the rate of sliding.” 

In the summer of 2015 I made a preliminary edit of some of the video documentation of the Topological Slide project in an attempt to better demonstrate some particular aspects of the slide experience. As with all VR projects a non-interactive 2D video is no substitute for the direct first person experience inside VR space.