The CAVE

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A VR environment can be used to create opportunities to experience being in the world differently.

In December, 2011, over 1200 people experienced the exhibit, <1>:“der”//pattern for a virtual environment,  created for the fully immersive CAVE™ at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This exhibition took Lisa A. Frank’s nature-based photographic work and reinterpreted it for virtual reality (VR). Varied responses such as: “It’s like a moment of joy,” or “I had to see it twice,” or “I’m still thinking about it weeks later” were common. Although an implied goal of her 2D artwork is to create a connection that makes viewers more aware of what it means to be a part of the natural world, these six VR environments opened up an unexpected area of inquiry that her 2D work has not. It revealed the CAVE™ to be a powerful tool that can encourage uniquely productive experiences. Quite by accident, she watched as these nature-based environments revealed and articulated an essential relationship between the human spirit and the physical world. The CAVE™ is certainly not a natural space, but there is clear potential to explore virtual environments as a path to better and deeper connections between people and nature. Lisa discovered that the novelty of a virtual reality experience can bring new focus and fresh attention to elements of our world that we have grown immune to. A VR environment can be used to create opportunities to experience being in the world differently. Here a person can be inside of an egg that is inside of a nest that is held by tree branches over a creek bed in a floating landscape where a light spring snow is falling. We are liberated from the worldly limitations of our body. Although the exhibit was not put through any form of testing as of yet, her observations amount to a remarkable vision of what VR might provide for us as an instrument to expand consciousness and promote wellness.

The CAVE™ is certainly not a natural space, but there is clear potential to explore virtual environments as a path to better and deeper connections between people and nature.”

Computer science graduate student Nathan Mitchell moves through a scene from Lisa A. Frank's MFA exhibit, presented at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. The exhibit is one of the first to use the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE) as an art medium.