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A Colossal Wave

Immersive Virtual Reality Art Installation

A Colossal Wave! by Marshmallow Laser Feast

Bringing Digital Art Experiences to Life

A Colossal Wave was created by Marshmallow Laser Feast. MLF explore human perception through trailblazing tech and for this project, for which I was producer, they collaborated with pioneering Canadian artists, Presstube, Dpt. & Headspace.

The art installation combined the latest innovations in interactive VR with computer graphic artworks generated in real time by the public’s voices, coined ‘voice fruits’. You could also experience Newton’s theories of cause and effect and a thought-provoking message about marine pollution.  

The installation offered a shared experience for visitors split over two locations: one outdoor, one indoor. The outdoor activity (located at the local marina) let people drop a bowling ball from a great height, fulfilling mischievous childhood urges whilst symbolising Newton’s theories of action and reaction.  

The tower was mainly a steel shipping container put in place on its end (with major adaptaptions such as a staircase installed) using a crane that just about fitted into the marina area.
Photo Liam Rich

As the ball smashed into a gong on the ground, a virtual tsunami was experienced by four people wearing VR headsets, as they stand under large metal umbrellas at ground level. The multisensory experience was heightened through a special backpack that created body vibrations and specialised audio.  

A Colossal Wave aimed to provoke conversation and action about humans’ impact on the planet too.  The virtual wave was filled with abstract computer graphic ‘voice fruit’ creatures that symbolise the billion of manmade waste particles polluting our seas.  

Outdoor participants wore VR headsets, as they stood under large metal umbrellas.

Each voice fruit was generated by the connected indoor VR installation (located a couple of hundred yards away). Here, members of the public used their voices to generate the peculiar creatures that rain down like meteors in the outdoor VR experience.  

Users in the indoor space wore VR headsets so that they could see their voice fruits being created in real-time. The shapes and sizes of the fruits varied according to voice and sound fluctuations, meaning each time one was created, they were unique to the visitor.  

Setting up: The tower, where the ball was dropped from, and the accompanying VR stations beneath the umbrellas.
Photo: Liam Rich

What was produced?

Mixing art with technology, A Colossal Wave engaged the participant’s sight, sound and touch to give a multi-sensory experience, spread across three interconnected locations. The complex, multi-location installation gave members of the general public the chance be an active participant in a collective mixed reality experience.

The indoor location gave participants the chance to enter a virtual world and create individual ‘voice fruit’, each representing a manmade particle of pollution. These were all unique creations varying in size, shape and colour, which were triggered and formed by the participant singing. They saw the creation forming before their eyes, whilst hearing an altered and comedic version of their voice. Within this space there was an added sensory element in the form of a giant fuzzy sphere at its core, that participants could touch throughout the experience.

The giant fuzzy sphere

The indoor space was connected with two outdoor locations. There were a 9 metre tower, which participants climbed to the top of to release a bowling ball, hitting a giant metal disc on a mattress at its base. This disruptive action triggered a tidal wave of VR voice fruits (produced by the people in the inside space), directly into the headsets of the participants in the outdoor location. The outdoor space had four VR umbrella pods where participants could see the voice fruits that were created by the people taking part in the indoor experience.

A Colossal Wave was co-commissioned by the UK City of Culture, the British Council and Partenariat du Quartier des Spectacles to celebrate the creative partnership between Hull and Montreal. 

Some ‘voice fruit’ from A Colossal Wave
The headsets worn beaneath the ‘umbrellas’ – with inset showing what the user can see in virtual reality