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Perpetual Voyage

Date and time
Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Perpetual Voyage

Exploration of movement, sound and architecture through immersive technologies

By Mathieu DeBlois

I created Perpetual Voyage during the pandemic, when Québec was in lockdown. Faced with these restrictions, I developed a new way of looking at the environment that I encountered on a daily basis, by weaving a story around the various meanings that I gave to the places I frequented. Through new immersive technologies, I explored the meanings and emotions evoked by these real spaces via digital space. The environment presented in this video is a composite of 3D models and sounds that were all captured in Montréal between January and May 2021.

With the confinement that has been imposed, a strange tranquility has settled in my neighbourhood and the slightest noise is amplified due to the absence of human activity. As I explored my neighbourhood on my skateboard, the combination of shapes and rhythms coming and going around me had strange spatial and musical qualities. I documented them with new immersive technologies such as the iPhone LiDAR camera that allowed me to capture real world spaces in 3D. In addition to that, I carried around with me a ZOOM H4n Pro audio recorder to record ambient sounds. I created the Perpetual Voyage world by manipulating these 3D files and audio recordings in the Unity game engine.

I started to develop an interest in documenting and disseminating the practice of skateboarding at an early age. Through the realization of various audiovisual compositions, I developed a certain affinity for the manipulation of sound and image as a means of expression. To represent the practice and the movement associated with skateboarding, I called up skateboarder Alexis Lacroix who allowed me to document some of his tricks via volumetric scans made with the Kinect. I’ve also created a randomly generated particle trail within Unity that serves as a visual representation of the different traces that skateboarding leaves on its environment.

Mathieu DeBlois, Perpetual Voyage, 2021. Virtual reality. Production still

French photographer and artist Raphaël Zarka says that skateboarding is all about shapes. These shapes have been present throughout the history of art and science, from Galileo to Robert Morris (Zarka, 2006). They find their echo in urban architecture and skateparks. As Zarka argues in La Conjonction interdite (2003), skateboarding makes a collage of the city’s materials and shapes, including structures designed for rest and comfort, going so far as to invert their function and meaning (Zarka, 2006). As the collage comes into focus, a visual language of skateboarding emerges. The physical environment is transformed into a giant playground, with limitless potential for fun and creativity.

Mathieu DeBlois, Perpetual Voyage, 2021. Virtual reality. Production still

Perpetual Voyage brings the concept of collage (Zarka, 2006) into the digital space. Together, the use of new immersive technologies and skateboarding allow me to explore certain senses and emotions evoked by the surrounding places. Thus the project highlights the reflection on the porosity between the real and the virtual—whether tangible or metaphorical—and how it affects the perception of the immediate environment. For me, Perpetual Voyage is like perpetual motion: an infinite loop that can incorporate new moments and spaces that are explored through time.

This article was written as part of Platform. Platform is an initiative created and driven jointly by the PHI Foundation’s education, curatorial and Visitor Experience teams. Through varied research, creation and mediation activities in which they are invited to explore their own voices and interests, Platform fosters exchanges while acknowledging the Visitor Experience team members’ expertise.

About the author

Mathieu DeBlois
Mathieu DeBlois is a master’s student in Digital Art at the University of Québec at Chicoutimi, School of Digital Arts, Animation and Design (NAD) and a student member of the Hexagram research network. He focuses on conceptualizing and creating narrative dimensions through the use of immersive technologies. Currently, he is doing a research-creation on volumetric cinema for XR format and is interested in the role that the environment plays in the production of narrative elements.

See more of Mathieu DeBlois’s work:
ArtStation
Sketchfab
Instagram

Bibliography

For an introduction to the field of volumetric cinema, see James George (2017). Available at https://medium.com/volumetric-filmmaking/the-brief-history-of-volumetric-filmmaking-32b3569c6831

Appadurai, Arjun, Global ethnoscapes. In R.G. Fox (dir.), Recapturing anthropology: working in the present (p. 191-210), University of Washington Press, Washington, 1991.

Breuleux, Yan, Le paradoxe de l’immersion sensorielle. Études digitales 2017 – 2, n° 4. Immersion (p. 91-113). Classiques Garnier, Paris, 2017.

Manola, Théa and Geisler, Elise. Du paysage à l'ambiance: le paysage multisensoriel - propositions théoriques pour une action urbaine sensible. In Ambiances in action/Ambiances en acte(s). International Congress on Ambiances, Montréal (p. 677- 682). International Ambiances Network, 2012.

Zarka, Raphaël, La Conjonction interdite : Notes sur le skateboard, éditions fsept, Paris, 2006.

Zarka, Raphaël, On a Day with No Waves: A Chronicle of Skateboarding 1779-2009, éditions B42, 2011.

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