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Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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The Raven VR is tapping at your chamber door

the raven vr
The Raven VR is tapping at your chamber door

Author Edgar Allen Poe’s poem The Raven is a beloved classic known for its gloom, its atmosphere, and its ominous sense of dread. But for artist Thomas Pasieka, it’s a symbol of the past.

In Pasieka’s latest independent project, he’s working to develop The Raven as an audio-visual experience for a new medium: virtual reality. “I think that’s part of my project, to shift back and to take art in slowly with thought and put yourself into a different space,” Pasieka told me. “To get out of this crazy world of everything flooded with social media and news that’s too much to keep up with. Even though I love tech, I also miss that old school feeling. I think we all have lost a little bit of that essence.”

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Pasieka is originally from Germany and has been an artist for around 25 years, getting his start in advertising originally. Ever since he moved to the U.S. many years later, after picking up some post-production 3D skills along the way, he’s lived happily as a freelancer stateside. His love for Edgar Allen Poe spawned when he was just a teen, where he found himself not only drawn to Poe’s words, but Poe’s life as well. “Which is somewhat tragic you could say,” said Pasieka. “He had a pretty rough life.” Pasieka related to Poe. (“We all have struggles in our lives.”) And Poe’s words provided a way to cope with the trials and tribulations of life itself.

“VR is the perfect medium to bring art into the limelight”

The Raven VR isn’t going to be a static experience, nor a frenetically interactive one. Pasieka hopes it will lie somewhere in between—with the viewer enjoying slight interactive elements (which are a secret for now, Pasieka notes), coupled with swelling piano and narration. His collaborators are Jordan Rudess, the keyboardist for the award-winning prog-metal band Dream Theater, and Barry Carl, who will be narrating the poem. “I actually gave [Jordan] a video to look at, it was Vincent Price’s reading of The Raven,” said Pasieka of how the collaboration came to be (Pasieka has created visuals for Dream Theater in the past). “I told him to listen to [Vincent] and get some inspiration from that. And he actually played to that video and recorded that. It was awesome.”

the raven vr
A peek at the interior for The Raven VR, where the player will ease into their surroundings.

Pasieka isn’t creating The Raven for monetary means, but as a passion project in off-hours and on weekends. “Sometimes on Twitter I rant a little bit about where is the old demo scene, like back in the Amiga or Atari days when you had a lot of people that were doing these crazy demos,” mused Pasieka. “Visuals with a lot of cool music. There was a whole scene around that. I’m not sure if people are into that anymore, but in general, I would say VR is the perfect medium to really bring art in the limelight, and say hey it’s not just about games, it’s about many purposes out there. From art to medical to whatever.”

You can stay tuned to Thomas Pasieka’s Patreon for updates on The Raven VR’s progress. He hopes to release it in late Q1 2017 or early Q2 2017.

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