How can you bring art and music into virtual reality? We chat to the legends behind Pause Fest before their opening night

Hitting Melbourne tonight has got to be one of the coolest events we’ve come across lately. Tilt-Off serves as the opening night to Pause Fest, a yearly creative tech summit which takes place in Melbourne.

Using Google’s Tilt Brush technology, four artists will go head-to-head in virtual reality, with the winner taking home a HTC Vive VR headset. The audience will be able to watch as the artworks come to life in the room around them in VR, and judge each work once they’ve been completed.

Before this sick event, we caught up with Pause founder George Hedon and Alexander Mitchell from Backwoods Gallery, who curated the artist lineup.

pause fest

Watch art unfold in the virtual world in real time at Tilt-Off, the slick opening event to Melbourne’s 2017 Pause Fest.

HAPPY: Can you give us a brief introduction to the tilt-off competition which will be opening Pause Fest in Melbourne?

ALEX: In order to show off Tilt-Brush as a creative tool, we wanted to bring together a selection of artists that cover a very wide variety of artistic styles and practices. We were extremely lucky, and a little surprised, when we heard back from some of Australia’s leading artists and found out that they had all been putting serious thought into working in virtual reality and would love to be a part of the project.

The event will consist of each artist using Tilt-Brush in their own unique way and the audience will be engaged by being able to vote for their favourite work.

HAPPY: Who are the artists we will see going head to head?

ALEX: Stephen Ives, a bricolage sculpture and symbolist. Shida, one of Australia’s leading street artists. Susanna Rose Sykes, a fantastic illustrator with a sharp iconic style. Finally, Stu Campbell, one of Australia’s leading multimedia artists who is currently at the global forefront of creating art in the virtual space both in AR and VR.

HAPPY: Can you tell me a bit about including Shida, a street artist, in the event?

ALEX: Shida is one of the most innovative artists in the Australian street art scene, employing a variety of new tools and techniques on the street, such as custom made brushes which allow him to paint in rainbows and fluorescent paints. Tilt-Brush is a perfect tool for him, both because he’s used to working live and impromptu and also because it’s dynamic, brushed and animated effects compliment how he thinks visually.

Gold Coast mural by Shida
Gold Coast mural by Shida

HAPPY: What advantages does virtual reality have when applied to the world of art?

ALEX: We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of possibilities for VR art. As it stands we are looking at the equivalent of MS-Paint and dreaming about what might be. From being able to collaborate on and share 3D worlds of art across the world to implementing artwork in all facets of consumables, the possibilities are staggering. And that’s before considering the applications within augmented reality. We are at the beginning of a new artistic gold rush and Vive is at the centre of it.

HAPPY: Have you seen any similar events take place in Australia at all?

ALEX: This is the first one I’ve heard of. But hopefully just the beginning.

HAPPY: What other ways have you seen virtual reality merge with art or artists?

ALEX: Stu Campbell, one of the artists in this project, has created a number of fantastic projects which incorporate virtual reality and augmented reality. For example his project Prosthetic Reality, which will also be launching at this year’s Pause Fest, is a collaborative book with a large group of amazing artist. The Prosthetic Reality book comes to life, animates and interacts with the viewer, once viewed through an augmented reality app. Definitely keep an eye out for Stu’s presentation at the Tilt-Brush demo to find our more about his projects.

HAPPY: Who will be providing the music on the night?

GEORGE: Edd Fisher, one of the Melbourne’s most influential DJs and tastemakers.

HAPPY: Do you have any other recommended events for the rest of Pause Fest?

GEORGE: Yes. Everything! Apart from the three conferences that you sound not miss, we have NASA, Lucasfilm, Cuberinc, Google, Girls in Tech and 140 other speakers. Apart from that extravaganza, there are two other free events that I think might steal the show; Pause Startup Expo in the atrium of Fed Square and the Closing Party at Beer Deluxe. You may add Tesla test drives to that list too. I could add more.

Tilt-Off will take place tonight at ACMI, Lightwell, Federation Square, Melbourne, VIC, Australia. General admission for the event is super-limited, so RSVP here as soon as you can.

Grab your tickets to Pause Festival right here. 

While you’re here, check out our piece on Aussie musicians who are also artists.