We are a small collective with the goal of making experiences that alter and uplift people’s minds. Our flagship VR experiences are Cosmic Sugar and Visitations. Cosmic Sugar allows users to experience flow states while interacting creatively with forces that affect a universe of dust. Visitations is designed for distraction therapy and peaceful meditation.
We see our work as a contribution to the language and understanding of how to use the new medium of VR to control people’s minds for the purposes of good. We see our antecedents in the avant-garde movements of the 20th century and the ceremonial practices of ancient cultures. We are fascinated by artists such as Kandinsky or Klimt, who saw visual art as a medium to represent experiences and inner states that do not lend themselves to discursive thought. Avant-garde film showed us that the flow of thought and the experience of consciousness, with all its meandering non-linearity, could be captured.
Instinctively, the act of ceremony, of creating meaning through movement and ritual, is understood as a defining sense of purpose and self. Ceremonies connect us to generational meaning and activate the power of our mind to heal, enlighten, and transform. Modern medicine has rediscovered this ability via the placebo effect.
Our senses are the gateways to our brain. Sensory stimulus can directly alter our physiology. The simplest way to see this is via strobing lights and binaural beats as read on an EEG.
Artists are trained to tap into our feelings and interrogate our emotional responses. We are in the best position to craft experiences that can directly alter the physiological state of the viewer.
The outer limits taught us:
“There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity…”
Artistic intuitions are heuristics which allow artists to take the sum total of their experience, skills and intentions and formulate works. Artists are uniquely suited to balance sensory inputs with framing and interactions to create experiences that conjure desired mental states. Art can be used in the service of propaganda or enlightenment.
We posit that we are propagandists of enlightenment.
Spiritual experiences are not necessarily pleasant. They often involve deep dives into unpleasant territory such as repressed thoughts, feelings, and trauma. Spiritual growth is about joining reality and seeing things as they really are. Shifts in perspective which connect otherwise isolated parts of our mind system can lead to epiphanies that illuminate the path and give a sense of direction to a daily meditation practice.
Virtual Reality is a medium which allows artists complete control of the viewer’s experience. Viewers are isolated, audiences are captive. Here is an opportunity to communicate directly, consciousness to consciousness.
There are a variety of techniques artists can use that, regardless of whether the actual content is abstract or representational, will affect an audience’s physiology in measurable ways.
Strobe lights create a frequency following effect called ‘entrainment’. They will literally change your brainwaves. For most people, this can create subtle and usually pleasant dissociation, but for people with photosensitive epilepsy, it can cause seizures.
The Dream Machine uses a spinning sculpture to achieve the effect. The Lucia Light is a $25,000 therapeutic strobe light, try it if you get the chance, it’s worth the money. We built a controllable strobing light and vibroacoustic waterbed experience at Luxury Escapism called “Rainbow Therapy”.
Visitations makes use of subtle strobing in most of its scenes and more intense strobing in others.
Two distinct tones played in each ear. Your brain will create a new, oscillating frequency, resulting in an audible rhythm which is readable on an EEG and creates the same kind of frequency following response as strobing.
“…what sparked further research into how binaural beats can help with focus, memory and pain, etc., was that binaural beats involved different neural pathways than conventional hearing, and they could evoke neural responses”
My favorite binaural beats generator is Gnaural.
Visitations makes use of isochronic and binaural beats in most of its scenes.
“…a young perceptual psychologist named Heinrich Klüver ingested a peyote button and carefully documented how his visual field changed under its influence. He noted recurring patterns that bore a striking resemblance to shapes commonly found in ancient cave drawings and he speculated that perhaps they were innate to human vision.”
Form constants are shapes and patterns which mirror the structure of the optic nerve and visual cortex and become apparent after ingesting certain hallucinogenic substances. Certain patterns are particularly ‘easy on the eyes’, which is to say that they fit into pre-existing structures in our brains. In the same way that representations of nude human forms will elicit drug-like, pleasurable effects, more abstract patterns can bring viewers to a similar place.
The Huichol of Mexico and the Shipibo of Peru are examples of traditional cultures which make use of hallucinatory form constants in their folk art. The patterns and imagery trigger subtle flashbacks in viewers experienced with the medicines they are inspired by.
“To have lost the art of thinking in images is precise to have lost the linguistics of metaphysics and to have descended to the verbal logic of philosophy”.
Editing refers to the act of joining together sequences of moving images. Human metabolism is actually slower when watching television than sleeping. The reason for this isn’t the hypnotic refresh rate of monitors, but rather the effects of editing, which exhaust a part of our brain designed to remain wary and watchful of changes in our environment.
“Watching television activates the primitive ‘orienting response’, keeping our eyes drawn to the moving pictures as if it were predator or prey.”
Editorial rhythm can ease transitions between disparate images or highlight their contrasts. Quick, jarring editing can induce anxiety while careful and invisible editing can be soothing.
VR Motion sickness is caused by a disconnect between the motion of the camera and the sense of motion which is communicated to our brain via fluid in our inner ear. This effect can be used to induce a mild sense of vertigo which, if used carefully, can create mild feelings of excitement, like being at the top of a roller coaster. A feeling of slow forward movement can be pleasant and comforting.
“…dopamine is also released in large amounts when we anticipate a pleasurable experience”
Framing is an important concept in art, not just of pictures hanging in a gallery but of moments in time. Framing includes the on boarding process and involves setting the expectation of the viewer. The belief that an experience will be rewarding, and the anticipation of what’s to come is pleasurable on its own. Pleasurable enough that it even leads to addiction. Gambling addictions are really addictions to the dopamine rush that comes from the anticipation of winning.
Sensory feedback which mirrors our physical states makes it possible for viewers to learn to recognize and tune their own inner states. Input devices include external EEG devices or heart rate monitors which can communicate over bluetooth or wires, or VR controllers can be used to detect breathing and other metrics.
“Some of the functions that people can learn to control include: blood flow, blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and pain perception”
Flow is a term coined by the psychologist Mikhail Csíkszentmihályi. It is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
These qualities lead to flow:
- Focused Attention
- Direct and immediate feedback
- Sufficiently challenging task
- Sense of personal control
- Intrinsically rewarding
Cosmic Sugar is an app which fulfills the criteria for creating a state of flow and many users report getting lost in the experience for hours.
Viewers receive pleasure or distress from watching other beings move because their brains behave as though they were the ones performing the movement.
“A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting.”
Simply put, we gain pleasure from watching other people dance, we feel like we’re doing it ourself. The experience can uplift us when we’re watching joyful ballets or disturb us if we’re watching the uncanny movements of creatures in horror films or Japanese Butoh.
We are hardwired to want to protect and nurture our young. Many juvenile creatures share similar features like larger eyes and heads. Honing experiences that trigger the chemical releasing effects of cuteness is on the development path.
“Liking ‘cute’ characters comes from a biological urge to protect and nurture our young.”
Creating is difficult and the work we are doing is in a small niche for now. We see the space growing, but at the moment we need support to continue our work. Liking our posts and videos helps us reach more people, purchasing and commenting on our apps is greatly appreciated. If you would like to contribute, collaborate, or commission, we are open to all inquiries.
We are here to learn.
We are here to experiment.
We are here to teach.
We are light.clinic.
An immersive VR experience made of a series of short vignettes designed to produce relaxed and entranced states in the…