Experience Teek Mach’s GRISAILLE at 2019 Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier Section

January 25th, 2019

Grisaille, the two-part mixed reality painting experience created by experimental artist Teek Mach, is being performed now during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. The piece is included among the New Frontier section, Sundance Film Festival’s curated collection of media works from creators pushing artistic innovation across new mediums that include VR, AR, mixed reality (MR) and AI. Grisaille will be performed from January 25th through February 2nd.

In 2016, a young artist named Teek Mach traded her paintbrushes for a headset and began inhabiting virtual reality more than the real world. After spending 6000+ hours creating in virtual reality, she discovered that this technology could be a profound communication tool for artistic expression.

In this two-part experience using VR, holograms, sound panels and projections, Teek invites visitors to join her in a recursive exploration of the infinite self. The story begins with PART ONE: the underpainting as soon as you enter a dark hallway and affix the Oculus Go headset.

In the headset, you are transported into a virtual version of the hallway you just entered. You see a hologram of Teek putting on a headset and travel through a series of hand-painted portraits of the artist, much like you would walk through a gallery. They catalog the emotional journey from the individual to the universal cosmic self that Teek underwent during her exploration of VR. Returning to the virtual hallway, you move into another room to find the hologram of Teek looking at you, then it fades to black.

This prompts you to take off the headset and proceed to the second room for PART TWO: the glaze. Here the artist in her real-life state stands before you, bringing your presence into the story and immortalizing you inside a never-ending painting with those who have shared the Grisaille experience. Award-winning composer Joel Douek will accompany the painting performance, capturing audio and layering sounds of the festival with original music to complete the collective experience.

In art, the term grisaille comes from an oil painting technique from the 15th century that uses shades of grey to imitate sculpture. The process uses thin layers of colors on top to create a stunning effect of light. This multi-step technique was a visual trick utilized by the Renaissance painters to create 3D objects in two dimensions, making their subjects appear to be glowing from within. Enabled by the most cutting-edge technology, Teek uses additive light brushes to layer color, bringing the influence of this ancient tradition into an entirely new sphere. The projections come from a live Tilt Brush virtual camera feed through an HTC Vive Pro.

Grisaille explores how VR technology can be utilized as a means to bring humans closer together, beginning with the self-reflection of the artist. Teek explains: “With the internet, we’re already living in a virtual world, so we may as well put forward the unique qualities that humans have to offer as we move further into the digital landscape. You can see the trace of my gestures with each stroke and become immersed in a world that marks the presence of the artist in the same way that cave dwellers traced their hands.”

“When I started developing in VR, there was a sense of empowerment because I no longer had to obey the laws of physics. It was something I could control, and the sense of freedom I experienced is something I wanted others to experience. For centuries, painters have been limited by two dimensions and sculptors limited by gravity. VR has none of these limitations; it opens up a new outlet for expression, making it the ultimate artist’s palette. In the same way no one could have predicted that the transistor would have led to rock n roll, we have no idea what new art forms will arise from virtual reality. I’m excited to meet those realities in the future.”

A still image from Grisaille by Teek Mach, an official selection of the New Frontier Programs at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Teek Mach.