Ouroboros 360 Graffiti Art Installation
The idea to record a graffiti mural using a 360 video camera suspended from the centre of a purpose built cylindrical dome like structure is something I was thinking about doing for a long time. The concept was to make the painting on cellophane (cellograff style) which was wrapped around the cylindrical installation which would allow the camera to capture not only the art and artist painting but also the surrounding landscape creating a kind of analogue augmented reality which could then be played back in virtual reality giving the viewer a 360 degree panoramic and immersive view of the creation process. It was also important to make it fun and awesome so I decided on painting a mythical mashup of two famous serpent dragon entities, so I present the Ouroboros vs Quetzalcoatl 360 graffiti art dome installation concept.
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Above is the short 1 minute video edit which presents the top down view, when I initially imagined this concept I had this top down 360 view in mind, however since recording and editing I have realised there are so many other interesting options for presenting the 360 footage. Including rendering an immersive virtual reality video…
Virtual Reality Graffiti – 360 Immersive Artist Panoramic Painting Experience Video
Presenting the creation process of the ouroboros graffiti mural in immersive 360 video. It’s the first time i’ve edited 360 video footage using premiere and it was much easier than I thought it would be. What’s really cool about this footage is you can view it using a virtual reality headset like an oculus or by inserting your phone into a cheap and cheerful contraption like google cardboard, this is really cool, it’s like being able to stand in the middle of the dome and see the creation process of the panoramic graffiti in full 360 degree glory! The soundtrack is something I produced using the Korg Gadget app and Ableton.
So what is the deal?
Being an artist and lover of technology when I encountered my first 360 camera the first thought I had was; ‘wow, that is cool, how can we exploit it and use it to make art”. I like the idea of using (or is it exploiting) technology in unconventional or unintentional ways from what it was designed to do) with 360 I feel like it’s perfect already, I just wanted a find a nice way to use it with graffiti. I’m a huge fan of experimental art and even better when it is combined with gear to make some sort of crazy tech art fusion.
I’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with some really amazing tech artists. Over the years I can say that thanks to these collaborations I’ve had my art displayed in many weird and wonderful ways including;
- Projection mapping my illustrations and characters in massive scale on the side of buildings
- My art has been displayed in a custom built interactive Virtual Reality environments
- Murals and street art pieces adorned on the walls of virtual reality art exhibitions
- 3D designing and 3D printing custom alien toy characters
- I currently really want to start getting more heavily involved in NFT art (but that’s a different story)
With each of these projects it’s something that would certainly have not been possible without the collaboration and help of someone else. The beauty of 360 video captures is it effortlessly makes everything look absolutely awesome and anyone can do it, all you need is a 360 camera and with a bit of video editing knowledge and right plugins you can accomplish something truly marvellous and then even be able to play it back on a virtual reality headset.
I guess tech art for me personally is equal parts awe and amazement. But it’s also a slight hate at the lack of artisan element, the physical process of making art using brushes for example is non-existent. Being a painter and lover of spray cans I kind of don’t ever want there to be a software substitute for using a real spray can. Though I’ve certainly seen demos of devices that seem to come very, very close (Kingspray Graffiti VR looks awesome for example). So in some sort of semi-rebellious fashion I wanted to create something that pays homage to the early experimental tech and sound artist where the technology is not used in the fashion it was intended to be used in order to create art. Be it Nam June Paik using industrial strength magnets on television sets or Aphex Twin creating a ‘prepared grand piano’ to then to hook it up to laptop in order to play it remotely via triggers and midi signals, there’s something I really like about the oddball, long winded nature of it. I would suggest that this purpose built 360 graffiti art dome installation is somewhat following the artist legacy of such aforementioned projects and ideas (coupled with the idea that I never want to see a world without paint or spray cans no matter how advanced virtual paint simulators become).
For the moment I dub this process analogue augmented reality. The plastic cellophane which wraps around the 360 graffiti dome structure is transparent and because the 360 camera captures the landscape surrounding the dome as well as the art which is painted onto the see-through plastic (by means of physical graffiti painting with a spray can) the artist is augmenting the reality surrounding the dome by painting on to the plastic.
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ABOUT THE STRUCTURAL BUILD
This is the first incarnation of the build, for this example I decided to do a solo painting, for multiple reasons, but mostly because I’ve never created structure like this or captured a truly 360 graffiti piece before. Quite frankly my worries came ‘full circle’ when the structure collapsed after 3 days because the wind of the rooftop was very strong, and the skeleton of the structure was not re-enforced to perfection. I now know where the mistakes lie and I will make the next edition stronger, better, faster.
Obviously I did a few test runs (building and measuring the skeleton of the installation prior to actual setup, testing out the best possible measurements, namely; heights and distances of the structure to obtain the best overall capture of the panorama using the 360 camera). The 360 camera I am using has quite a narrow field of capture (as I assume most 360 cameras do) so I had to strike a good balance between the background (the landscape background beyond the plastic wrap) and the cellograff artwork itself. In the end the art installation took on a octagonal structure, with the widest diameter of the octagon being 3.25m and a painting height of 2m, an additional 1.5 meters of height was added to the structure to provide suspension points for the camera and light rig. The suspension point of the camera was also crucial to the get the best capture. The aim was to strike a height of suspension that would allow the piece to look good in both inverted fisheye 360 and regular 360 fisheye video. In the end I suspended the camera upside down in the centre of the structure around mid-height of the of the surrounding cellograff canvas.
Lighting was a big consideration too, the camera I am using does not perform particularly well in low-light and it was very important for me to capture the transition from daylight to dusk to night and is possible to capture the sunset. What made it even more complex is the fact that I wanted the proposed black light reactive elements of the painting to become apparent once the sun had set (timed with the sunset), unfortunately the structure didn’t survive this long, and I didn’t get to finish the painting because it collapsed. On the positive side I did manage to run some tests to figure out the correct positioning of the black light spotlight and supplementary daylight bulbs for next time. It is important to provide some ambient lighting supplementary to the black light bulb, otherwise the camera would really struggle to capture something that would look good in the final 360 video edit. However, even with the ambient lighting the black portions of the 360 capture were quite noisy and grainy, maybe I need to upgrade my gear… At any rate, I’m ready for the next incarnation of the project, everything has been worked out and the next build of the installation should survive, even if the wind and elements decide to be extreme.
ABOUT THE OUROBOROS GRAFFITI DESIGN
I’m a long-time fan of all things mythological and esoteric, especially the somewhat scary creature and deity variety. I’ve been incorporating and referencing mythology as well as iconography and symbolism into my art for a long time too. So, the idea to remix the classic Ouroboros design came to me almost instantly. Actually, with this design I took it a step further and created a mashup between two very well known serpents/dragons namely Ouroboros and Quetzalcoatl. Both have been drawn, painted, tattooed, designed and remixed in a plethora of amazing ways, and I was keen (as always) not to simply copy someone else’s design or interpretation of the mythical dragon type creatures, despite painting it in a very experimental fashion. It is not the first time I’ve painted reptilian looking art and I’ve actually painted a Quetzalcoatl graffiti mural in the past, check the mural section of the website to have a look.
The initial idea I had I was very happy with, but as with a lot of things the design I had cooked up in my mind had been done before, and frankly repeating a design, even if I did independently think it up is a bit of no-go in my books. FYI it was an ouroboros glazed doughnut mashup, after taking no more than an hour to do a prep sketch I decided to google it (“ouroboros doughnut mashup”), of course a tasty looking pink glazed Ouroboros doughnut as a design has been done before (as print, digital artwork, pin badge etc…) it’s a bit of a shame because the colour would have lended themselves really well to a black light art graffiti piece, I dunno… I might still do it in future let’s see.
Anyway, in the end I was quite determined all things considered an Ouroboros themed graffiti piece would be the best option for the final proof of concept and 360 video edit. From my initial testing I was sure it would look great on the final 360 video. In the end I decided to just go with painting an Ouroboros the best way I knew how, halfway through sketching the idea I started looking at other famous and mythical celestial serpents, dragons and other deities and that’s when I got re-acquainted with Quetzalcoatl; a celestial creator deity I was familiar with painting before and in general have a lot of love and appreciation for. So why settle for a lone Quetzalcoatl graffiti piece when you can mash it up with an Ouroboros.
Quetzalcoatl which is of Mesoamerican origins. (Maya, Aztec etc…) all included this celestial serpent in their creation stories, anecdotally some Mormons believe that Quetzalcoatl is in fact Jesus Christ. At any rate the feathered serpent really does lend itself well to a black light graffiti design, however the other hand Ouroboros is perfect for an experimental 360 graffiti video dome art installation – so the decision was made to mash up, or remix the two designs. Just to give the graffiti piece an extra quirky and slightly tongue in cheek twist I decided on painting the design without the snake actually eating its tail and thus revealing why the serpent would want to eat it’s tail in the first place. The answer as revealed in the final painting (because it’s tail is actually a pineapple, slightly akin to a rattle snake type appendage). The pineapple definitely came about as a sort of situational/environmental influence. The piece was painted at the Arttra Villa situated in Bangkok’s ‘green lung’ Phra Pradaeng District, the pineapple made perfect sense. If I really wanted to keep to Quetzalcoatl’s Mesoamerican roots I should have made it corn… but the colour scheme just seemed slightly better with an orange pineapple.
Why Quetzalcoatl and Ouroboros?
Both the Quetzalcoatl and Ouroboros are packed full of symbology and meaning, throughout the history of their imagining. Although I love the all the existing lore related, on a personal reflection I particularly resonated with the rebirth aspect of Ouroboros and the creation aspect of the Quetzalcoatl.
Ouroboros, of Egyptian origin and then passed through a few different cultures (in particular the Greeks and Gnostics) the symbol of a snake eating it’s tail got heavily adopted as an alchemical symbol. I feel like the end result of a 360 video capture is nothing short of magic, the ability to transport the viewer via the immersive magic of virtual reality headset, to the place of filming, to teleport into that particular time of existence and exist within that moment in a truly 360 panoramic experience.
Ouroboros is also known for symbolizing eternity and the cycle of birth and death, passion for art and creating in general is something very personally ever persistent in my existence, and the piece itself was always meant to be temporary, the birth and death of the art installation was foretold, and as I mentioned before, I knew the painting of Ouroboros in a 360 degree painting captured on VR camera would look epic A F. In some ways me painting this piece was a re-birthing into using spray cans, I had not used any spray cans for about a year prior to painting this piece. I just didn’t feel the graffiti vibe, I was focusing more on creating digital art, I knew I would always come back to spray cans eventually, that was a given, but it was nice to celebrate the re-entry and re-birthing into the format of spray paint for a spectacular 360 infused reason. For me art for art sake is always fun, but art with purpose and next level concept is beyond satisfying and truly stimulating (for lack of better expression). After I finished painting this I for real felt dead, but I also felt reborn back into the art of graffiti / street art, the cycle and parallel was really fitting.
Quetzcoatl, as aforementioned is a design I’m familiar with and have painted before, and having not painted for such a long time I thought it best to have at least some familiarity with the design I was going paint. The colours of UV reactive spray paint are quite limited, but more than enough to make a brightly coloured feather celestial deity serpent. I was obsessed with the idea of installing the dome and creating the painting on a rooftop location, in the Mesoamerican creation stories Quetzalcoatl (the celestial flying reptile, or feathered serpent) was said to be a transgressor (boundary-maker) between the earth and sky, I think this meaning is very fitting for a painting on a rooftop location. The nature of the installation and use of cellophane meant the 360 camera would be able to capture not only the graffiti in full panoramic view but also what was visible beyond, below and above, namely; the surrounding landscape and skyline, the rooftop floor and the sky above.
The rooftop location at the Arttra Villa venue has a stupendous almost 360 view of Bangkok’s city skyline and countered with the lush green tropical panorama of Bangkok’s Phra Pradaeng District on the remaining degrees of the 360 capture. Being a type of galactic celestial dragon type entity meant seeing the black light graffiti piece juxtaposed with the night sky would look absolutely awesome, sadly the structure didn’t survive long enough for me to finish (or even attempt adding a layer of black light paint)… fortunately the colours I did use in the piece were vibrant and popping enough to almost get the idea realized. Still I know where I went wrong and I will re-build the structure to be hardy and withstand wind elements next time. The cellophane wrapped around the 360 dome structure makes the whole installation turn into pretty much a massive sail, but re-enforcing the joints and providing some external anchoring should be enough to make it stay sturdy and intact.
It’s also worth noting that the overlap in meaning between these two dragon type serpents is that they both in certain interpretations and myths represent death and resurrection. So as this first incarnation of the 360 graffiti dome installation was born and died, I am determined to bring it back to life.
FUTURE APPLICATION and EVOLUTION
What also makes me excited about this 360 graffiti project is that the process and action can be observed in many ways and also the overall feeling of the piece can be tweaked to create a totally different experience, depending on the theme of the art, who is participating and how the filming is done.
Besides the setup and the dismantle, the installation breaks down into two main component actions; the live happening where paint is sprayed onto the cellophane and the final virtual reality edit of the footage. Both are immersive for the viewer who is present at the two formats of presentation. There are so many creative and interesting ways to edit 360 footage it makes my head spin, having the camera mounted in a fixed central position does somewhat limit the filming process. In this case that limitation is a positive thing, I already have too many ideas on how make the current setup of the installation more interesting and immersive.
Here are some of the ideas I’ve been thinking about in no particular order.
360 GRAFFITI WORKSHOPS – unfolded the current structure provides a painting surface area of 9m wide by 2m height, that’s easily enough space to be divided between 9 people per session and can easily be repainted for the next group, and that’s only the inside surface area of the cellograff ‘canvas’. If you consider the use the outer facing layer of cellophane that would be double the space! At any rate having done graffiti workshops in the past I think people would get a kick out of it, and with the added twist that they can then be documented and filmed in the glory of a 360 time lapse (and 360 photography) resulting in a really unique memory of the experience. I’m definitely up for introducing willing participants to have a go at painting the 360 graffiti dome.
360 GRAFFITI JAMS –A self-explanatory concept, for what is more fun than painting graffiti solo?… Inviting a other artists to paint together! The circular nature of the 360 camera will make for a really unique looking graffiti production. Whereas with typical graffiti jams artists might paint side by side on a long, wide flat wall, the notion of the cylindrical layout means a more intimate and collaborative experience. The 360 camera from inside the graffiti dome, as opposed to a traditional long wall will be able to capture all the artist’s work in one photo frame. In terms of creating a cohesive and themed graffiti piece the overall photo will look really cool, and even if every artist brings really opposing style the 360 time-lapse will still be able to capture the creation process in a really unique and quirky way. I’ve already had some interest from other artists to make a jam of it, it will also be nice having friends help me setup the structure, many hands make light work after all.
360 PANORAMA ART WITH PERFORMANCE – Although I am not a choreographer my experience of working on events (mostly as a body painter) for performers has allowed me to see and connect with a whole plethora of cool performing artists and acts. As a basic example I would love to see some black light painted bodies performing a choreographed performance inside (or even outside the dome) with the appropriate artwork and method of 360 camera captures or livestream to make something truly terrific to then watch back on VR headset or edited 360 video footage.
360 BLACK LIGHT GRAFFITI – It was my intention the whole time to paint the current mythical dragon graffiti design with a hidden layer of black light reactive spray paint, but it didn’t work out this time. I am certain that incorporating a good design with the timing of a sunset to reveal a black light graffiti design will look nothing short of incredible on the final 360 video edit.
360 GRAFFITI DOME AT EVENTS AND FESTIVALS – When taken down and dismantled the dome is actually fairly compact and relatively easy to transport, I can definitely see this being a nice thing for people to look at and interact with at parties and festivals.
360 GRAFFITI DOME AS A STAGE FOR LIVE STREAMING – Simply put I have a vision of a DJ/musician(s) setting up in the middle of the dome, and in my minds eye it looks stunning. The surrounding cellograff artwork can be themed to the music and or act (painted live or prepared for the occasion), and although not ideal for a live context (as you can’t really fit a large audience inside the art installation) in a 360 live stream context it could make for a really cool immersive experience and offer the viewer some very cool viewing angles and perspectives. What the fisheye lens was for 90s hip hop, I think the true visual alchemy of 360 captures hasn’t fully been exploited. I think with the development and accessibility of VR headsets this is yet to happen, but I think we are not far off from this point and I’d like the 360 graffiti dome to be ready and perfect for the moment it does.
360 ALL OF THE ABOVE – Maybe a tall ambition, but if all the above ideas can somehow be fused together to make on massive synergistic performance/action and 360 video capture and immersive live stream experience, well I think that would be nothing short of marvelous.
OTHER 360 – With the addition of other tech and lighting fx (especially after an appropriately curated and created complimentary panoramic artwork has been created). I noticed that the dome can cast amazing shadows from the inside out. Meaning with an appropriate light source from the inside of the dome the outside floor creates some really cool shadow patterns. Taking this concept a step further by adding projection mapping, strobe and other FX lighting could make for some really interesting effects and visuals on the outside of the art installation to further enhance the viewers experience.
SUMMARY of the 360 GRAFFITI CELLO DOME V1.0
I would suggest that this is not a truly unique idea. I’ve seen many people make graffiti on cellophane (shrink wrap) plastic, which is commonly referred to as ‘cellograff’ – this is just taking this idea and expanding on the method of capture and the actual setup of how and what the plastic is wrapped around to create an eternal fully panoramic 360 degree ‘canvas’.
The combination of this eternal cellograff canvas and capturing the action using a 360 camera in video or time lapse is the mashing up of two or more ideas that makes the final edit quite unique.
Coming ‘full circle’ I am very excited by the prospects and hope to be writing about the new installment of the installation soon. I’m still playing with the name of this thing, I think 360 graffiti dome is not quite right, but that will come with time I’m sure.
If you’ve read this far, I applaud and thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed the concept and the artwork despite it not being fully realized in full black light glory. If you have any questions or comments, especially ideas on how to make better or suggestions for what you would like to see in the next installment I would be very happy to hear from you. Take care and keep the eternal cycle of rebirth strong and positive.
Vinni Kiniki 2021