VR Coral Reef – by Colleen Flanigan

“Part of my mission is to show how coral reefs and wildlife are suffering from ALL of our pollutions and looking ahead, how by not polluting you will be doing a great service to coral restoration efforts.” – Colleen Flanigan

This photo is taken from within a fantastical 3D VR coral reef ecosystem the artist is working on for the International Year of the Reef, 2018. She wants to create a 360 immersive experience for participants to discover wonder, curiosity and wow found in the colourful, vibrant ocean environment.

When Flanigan was artist-in-residence with Google’s Tilt Brush (TB) in August 2016, it was one of her year’s highlights to spend hours playing in that world! Tilt Brush is fun. “The brushes and tools let you create instantly with magic wands. It’s like entering another universe where you’re building and painting textural and glowing surroundings in 3D. As you walk through and around your virtual creation, you can change scale, color, texture and line quality just by swishing your fingers and arms. At any time save what you’re working on, capture videos, stills, and, with patience, you can render your piece into 360 videos to upload online.” Says Colleen Flanigan.

TB lends itself to live performances with musicians and public events where the artwork is created in real-time and projected onto a large monitor or Vortex dome, for example. Rather than avoiding the real world, as some people say, it’s another extension of creativity, catharsis, and true connection with myself, and another means to highlight what matters.

Her time working on coral restoration has given me quiet hours observing the polyps, tentacles, colors, and forms, as well as the fish, algae, and other marine life. These things emerge spontaneously from my memory bank in TB, which is healing in a time of true sadness about the loss of corals and other wildlife due to our ignorance and damaging acts.

Being artist and maker brings her happiness and affords her energy to be of service. Diving into the creative zone gives Flanigan some inner peace that can emanate when she works on interdisciplinary projects demanding a lot of relationship building and emotional work. The artist thinks this concept is critical to convey and encourage at a time when so many leaders and decision makers pretend that art and creativity are luxuries or extraneous. No, they are central to our problem-solving capabilities, cultural existence, and compassionate connection to one another and all species.

Life is mysterious and serious. We need to highlight the beauty, humour, truth, and strength that pours out of people when they ground themselves in artistic pursuits. The process and results can have a great impact to transform our relationships with ourselves and the sea.

As part of Universal Sea’s – pure or plastic?! events and actions, she proposes a screening of the film, Chasing Coral, a powerful documentary with a mix of perspectives – scientists, activists, and technologists as they reveal the unfolding of a recent global coral bleaching event that touches everyone. It is so moving, you feel compelled to DO SOMETHING to prevent the dire predictions.

During the Q&A, the artist will introduce Zoe – A Living Sea Sculpture via short video to share our coral refuge project that uses the same webcams as seen in Chasing Coral, explain briefly the method of coral regeneration being implemented, and bring up the importance of reaching the tourism industry to stop mass pollution killing our ocean. Of course, plastic is a BIG one.

Next,  a workshop with TB. People receive cardboards to use with your mobile phones to experience the VR Reef previously rendered in 3D, and then we’ll begin a new VR Coral Reef – a collective project to be born. The goal is to link the VR and real world reefs in a popular initiative that proliferates online – building awareness and using interactive art to include new voices in our work to regenerate living coral colonies.

In the workshop, participants of all ages and backgrounds will have a short time to add to the ecosystem and receive credit on our online platform (to be created). Hopefully the talented Tilt Brush development team can lend support to launch this ongoing international action.

Acknowledging the scope of this multi-city initiative being organized by Universal Sea, Colleen Flanigan is contemplating a 3rd action that requires greater assistance with planning. The Streaming Museum and Universal Sea partners may have ideas for how to execute a multi-city action combining our subaquatic live streaming webcam and VR Coral reef to coincide with other related events. By projecting the video feed from the Zoe project in Mexico onto select architecture in multiple cities and countries simultaneously, they could disrupt the routine flow of every day urban life to draw attention to underwater architecture, concepts of ocean rehabilitation and ocean architects (coral reefs – the original builders collaborating with human interventions) and tie that into group actions. 

“If we do something ambitious like this, which public spaces resonate? Historic Venice and Amsterdam come to mind, where engineering and architecture revolve around water as a foundational pillar with parallels to the ancient cities created by corals.” – Colleen Flanigan

Artist site: www.colleenflanigan.com