Desert Rain was a pioneering large scale virtual reality performance installation representing a synthesis of art and technology using unorthodox interface devices. The project was realised in collaboration between the performance group Blast Theory, the University of Nottingham and ZKM.
The event represented an exciting experiment in the application of mixed reality boundaries
, in which a virtual world is projected into a physical space, allowing perception across the virtual 'boundary' from both sides.
During the performance, six 'players' embark on a journey through a virtual environment in which they encounter a number of landscapes and performers. As they travel through the landscapes they experience various media including live audio and video links to other players. The world itself is projected onto a screen created by a fine spray of water (a rain curtain
). Navigation through the world is achieved using a custom-made footpad.
Looking at the Gulf War and the media's reporting and representation of it through the experiences of the participants, Desert Rain questions the boundary between the real and the virtual world. In particular, Jean Baudrillard's assertion that the Gulf War was in fact a 'virtual' event (relating to media subjectivity and the artificiality of televisual imagery) is key influence on the piece.
Desert Rain was premiered during the Now 99 festival in Notingham from October 18th to 22nd. The event was then shown at the ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany, from November 9th to 14th.