Anatomy of a Virtual Mobile:
Timothy Rose and a Work in Progress
by Sharon Rockey
When Timothy Rose began creating his colorful award winning mobiles 25 years ago, he never imagined that he would one day design a piece you could actually move into and explore, nor did he guess that it would be entered through the screen of a computer.
In his third floor Sausalito studio with a vista of the bay, I was invited to step inside the model for this new and unique work of art, an installation which is the starting point for a virtual mobile.
We entered a four-walled painted canvas enclosure measuring 16 feet square by 10 feet tall. Seated on a polka dotted mushroom-like cushion it felt as if we had just entered a whimsical piece of Alice's wonderland. The walls are a landscape of outrageous color and patterns that sweep around you, down one wall, across the floor and up another.
The mood of color and geometric patterns suggest a change of season as it winds around the walls with earth below and sky above. The interior space is filled with large mobiles, each a piece of art in themselves, blending and mixing with the canvas background, creating a constantly changing environment.
Still, this is only the beginning point, or installation, for the bigger more serious work that emerges once you apply the magic of computer technology.
Since three dimensional mobiles have always been Tim's first love, when he discovered an Apple software package called Quicktime Virtual Reality (QTVR), he was inspired to create his first virtual mobile. Tim shot 12
digital photographs of the
model, which he then seamlessly linked into a
continuous landscape. The final step connected the ends of the 768 pixel x
2496 pixel file to turn the landscape into a QTVR cylinder.
A traditional mobile revolves on its own and you can view it from one point in a room, or you can physically move around it. But when the landscape, entitled, "Mobile Landscape Room" is viewed with a QTVR player, the art seems to revolve around you as an endless canvas with no edges, no beginning or end. Since you are in control, you can stop anywhere along the way to zoom in for a closer look. When seen through this medium, the image is condensed and transformed into a tapestry of rich colors and complex patterns.
Tim plans to produce a CD ROM. He will create countless choices and images by simply photographing the installation with the mobiles in various positions. By using the CD ROM interactive capabilities, when the viewer returns to the same spot, the scene will have changed just as would be expected if you had stepped into the actual model. Music composed by Jerry Frohmader will accompany the art and will be matched with the particular mood of the image being viewed. Portions of the art will be animated and the viewer will have the pleasurable sensation of being inside a changing work of art.
Meanwhile, back in Tim's studio, the installation has taken on a life of its own. In May, over 500 people came through during the Marin Open Studios tour, an annual event which opens artists' studios to the public and which Tim and Kay Carlson founded in 1994, bringing over a quarter of a million dollars in sales to participating artists each year.
Tim has been approached with a variety of uses for the model including backgrounds for a computer game and a music video, and a think tank/playroom for corporate retreats where executives would find no resistance to letting their creative wheels turn. One restaurateur suggested adding tables and chairs and moving it into a restaurant. It inspired a children's art class to create, not the green grass across the bottom, blue sky across the top art, but abstract drawings that started from the edge of the paper and moved toward the middle.
Tim is pleased with how well his piece has been received. While he is a serious artist, he doesn't take himself seriously. He smiled and said jokingly, "But is it art? Well, let's see. It's not something you really need, you might not even want it, it costs a lot of money and it doesn't do anything. Yes, I would say it fits all the requirements!"
Tim's QTVR movie, "Mobile Landscape Room", was selected to represent Apple Computer's QTVR technology at the 1997 SIGGRAPGH tradeshow.
Note: Sadly, our friend Tim Rose passed away on March 27, 2008.
In this memorial announcement, and in keeping with Tim's style, attendees were invited to wear their brightest colors and Hawaiian shirts.
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