Fools Paradise: Introduction  

Introduction    Artists     Libretto    Composition     VR Design    Production

This site contains both preliminary sketches and documentation of the first performance of Fools Paradise. The Production link documents the performance and includes a two short digital videos.The rest of the material documents the process of an artistic collaboration from sketches to realization. There is also a Proposal (PDF, 108Kb) that describes the final work and lists performance and installation requirements.



"Fools Paradise" is a VR installation and performance based on texts by visionary poet and artist William Blake. In the sketches, the brief texts are associated with human figures embedded in an island landscape that is at once a vast book, a sculpture garden, and a network of pathways through language and music. Icoshedral gems and 48 masks replaced the figures in the final production. Participants in the installation wander over the landscape, triggering multi-modal events. In performance, musicians and a VR performer explore the work in depth, to reveal hidden structures, symbols, and narratives.

As a composition, "Fools Paradise" is grounded in abstract notational structures that help to determine its visual architecture, musical material, and event-flow. In other words, it is an intermedia artwork, where events in one sensory modality may be mapped onto events in another modality. At the same time, different media are left free to display their own unique qualities, without strict mapping. The degree of mapping at any given point is part of the compositional process.

This approach to composition is peculiarly apt for digital technology. Thanks to digital technology, compositional structures can operate at all levels of granularity and with a degree of abstraction that places all media on the same plane, and performances can attain an unprecedented degree of precision and synchronicity of events.

Though we embrace technology to realize our art, we are acutely aware of the twin necessities of approaching technology from a critical point of view and of engaging culture as a historically rooted enterprise. The selection of texts from Blake's "Marriage of Heaven and Hell" presents a critique of the tyranny of religious institutions and a plea for personal freedom of belief that resonates today. The use of VR as a performance medium rather than as a passively explored architecture, the blending of live acoustic music with electronics, and the use of "hand-painted" texture maps in the VR landscape all are meant to point to the continuity of human presence at the core of culture. As artists, first of all we create experiences--not precious objects or cultural values. We honor Blake as a multimedia artist avant la lettre, an artist who melds poetic language with printed and painted image in his books. We place ourselves within tradition that we may challenge our present moment as he challenged his own historical moment.