Virtual Reality creates a separated reality a space within reality, often sold to us as access to representations of a physical space that we couldn’t otherwise inhabit – back in time, out in space, in deep oceans…magical and transformational experiences. Stories do this too, using words to create a virtual space in our minds where we can experience things, feel emotions, inhabit another person’s ‘reality’, and visit alternative places, spaces, or times. We wanted to explore that point of boundary between spaces, using poetry and VR to trace the boundaries between real and the virtual. To do this, we needed to access a digital set -up suitable for outdoor use. Currently, there is not an affordable VR set-up that is mobile enough to take outdoors, so we have had to create one ourselves. We use the HTC VR-Vive kit with Google Tilt Brush, a laptop with an external eGPU, a Playstation and PS-VR headset and Move Controllers with Cool VR , and an iPhone 8 with a range of AR apps including Paint Space AR and LightSpace, both of which are very mobile and allow us to draw in outdoor/indoor spaces.

Example of AR video capture – “Beach Circles”

I found drawing complex representable shapes difficult with the AR app – shapes were jagged and sometimes jumped away from my location – I resorted to trying to make a human mark in the landscape – I achieve this with a circle motif, made with a circular arm swing from my shoulder and outstretched arm. Another technique we experimented with was walking along a line – shorelines and tide lines in the beaches were great starting points, and while holding the Phone to my hip allowed it to record my walking motion along the landscape.

Example of AR video capture – “Beach Line”

Supported by an a-n bursary, we mapped out an initial three-week self-directed residency, travelling around Orkney as a family, staying at different points in a bothy, campervan, brotchie, and hostel. In order to create an immersive response to the space, we dropped ourselves into an immersive experience, our anchor being a single word — ‘trace’, constantly bringing us back to a point of exchange and discovery. Each location of the residency divided our time between exploration, research, reflection, and creation.