M Dolinsky 

The process of designing multi-user virtual environments (VE) is similar to the process of designing code or imagery in that it is necessary to passionately maintain a catalog of ideas and references. VE design combines these passions to construct a consistent graphical user interface (gui) with metaphors for exploration and self-reflection in a collaborative team effort. 

"Dream Grrrls" is a VE created in the CAVE (TM) by artist M Dolinsky and software engineer Grit Sehmisch. The design focuses on the immersive nature of dreams. A typical gui has elements or icons that function as navigational tools and sit on the periphery. VE icons do not operate like a toolbox, but are spatially based, like the galleries in an art museum. "Dream Grrrls" is a journey through five different environments presented in a labyrinth filled with paths and three dimensional objects or "icons".

Interactions with dreams are often strange and unexpected, providing somewhat unfamiliar responses. In "Dream Grrrls," objects initiate interaction in order to loosen the user from an often passive position -- encouraging participation rather than mere viewing. A strong motive for interactions is sensory and cognitive stimulation produced by the imagery of people. The imaginative objects are invitations to other places and other states of consciousness. For example, a playful sphere of faces calls out in child's persistent voice to "come out and play". Following the voice and entering the sphere brings the user into a new environment and a new call to play a game of see-saw.

As much as art attempts to convey insight, "Dream Grrrls" attempts to generate a new awareness based on interaction and immersive experience in order to create an exciting new level of communication beyond verbal knowledge. Dream imagery presents itself in a way that familiarity with the real becomes uncertain. On one path, the participant can ignore the warnings "Don't go up there!" and enter a ominous head. Inside, the navigational wand becomes a flashlight to reveal walls made of whispering faces and creatures. This light provides illumination -- a gateway to another level of consciousness and ultimately, the many sides of our selves.

In an environment inhabited by large vessels, the user approaches the unfamiliar territory like a desert island of loneliness. One vessel has imposing eyes following the participant wherever she goes: she comes face to face with what could be her psyche. If she chooses to confront it, she finds herself unable to move, rattled by the world around her, only to awaken back where she came from (the labyrinth), the same, yet somehow different.

"Dream Grrrls" allows the user to experience their world in a new and dynamic way much like an active or lucid dream. The participants "cooperate" with the computer in such a way that one is uncertain of the action/reaction hierarchy. "Dream Grrrls" becomes a medium to create a personal performance by learning to interact with the environment and recognize its plasticity.

Good VE combines the artistic and scientific strengths of individuals to create designs that are impossible to create alone. The design of VE combines the arts and technologies through graphical display, hardware, software with the art of installation, performance, lights, audio and kinetics and demands a collaborative effort to create.

"Dream Grrrls" could not have been possible without the artist's library of images and the focused dedication on software by Grit Sehmisch. Audio consultation was provided by Joe Reitzer and programming consultation was provided by Marcus Thiebaux, Dave Pape, Bor-Tyng Lin and an Electronic Visualization Laboratory of sages. Special Thanks to Dan Sandin, Tom DeFanti, Maxine Brown, Dana Plepys, Jim Costigan and Maggie Rawlings.

"Dream Grrrls" is for dreamers who see the world as unreal.

M Dolinsky

Electronic Visualization Laboratory  M/C 154
University of Illinois at Chicago
851 S. Morgan St. Rm 1120 SEO
Chicago IL 60607-7053

Dream Grrrls