The construction of a MoMA Art Event mockup that reinterprets a series of geometric abstract paintings as Interactive 3D and VR environments in a game engine.


Using game engine applications for the construction of a MoMA Art Event mockup reinterpreting a series of geometric abstract paintings as Participatory 3D and VR environments. The spectator, as a First Person Controller (FPC) in a game engine, can see/experience and alter interactively these virtual geometric abstract paintings.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Rendering the painting as a 3D/VR Environment

Each painting will be rendered as a Unity 3D scene, the painting maybe rendered either as a side or as a plan view. The elements of the composition have to be given arbitrary heights because the information from the painting does not refer to it as it is two-dimensional.

The ‘frame’, (outer bounds) of the painting will not necessarily be static; it could be a rectangular box or the perspective camera’s frustum i.e. the shape of the region that can be seen by the First Person Controller and rendered by the camera. Initially, the First Person Controller is standing in front of the painting.

As each abstract geometric painting is comprised of simple colorfull geometric shapes, the construction of the painting as a 3D/VR scene is a straightforward design process.

Relocating the 3D geometric composition elements of the painting

The spectator-user through the First Person Controller may cause a series of random repositionings of the 3D geometric elements (of all sizes) of the painting within the bounds of the 3D/VR scene. Alternatively, he may take up and reposition any 3D geometric element. Large elements will be considered immovable while any repositioning may be done on elements with ‘mass’ less than that of the First Person Controller.
If a very big 3D geometric element (i.e a huge sphere) after moving randomly falls on the First Person Controller he is destroyed or if he has a number of lives he will be left with one less.

Moving about inside the painting

The First Person Controller moves inside the painting interactivity by the spectator-user (AI), he can lift and move composition elements and place them in new positions. He walks, runs, jumps and even floats/flies within the 3D/VR environment.

Applying the laws of Physics

Any 3D geometric composition element repositioning will be done under the laws of physics that work within Unity and it may result in the colliding of elements with each other or even the First Person Controller.

Alternate Geometric Abstract Painting compositions

A Geometric Abstract Painting may be altered if the elements/shapes that comprise it alter their positions either randomly , through interaction or through the laws of physics by colliding with each other. These generated alternate compositions would differ from the original and one can classify them into different categories according to certain criteria. Some of these alternate compositions could still support the original composition’s concept and could carry the same title followed by a serial number. The generation of these alternates may be done under certain constraints.
It would be interesting to evaluate their aesthetic value and keep only those compositions that have artistic merit.

Experiential narrative as a viewer / First Person Controller of a painting at a MoMA exhibition of selected Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s Geometric Abstract Paintings as 3D/ VR interactive environments /scenes

“[Art is a set of] artefacts or images with symbolic meanings as a means of communication.” -Steve Mithen

Initially, the viewer is standing in front of a Geometric Abstract Painting. He reflects on the meaning of the composition, as he coprehends it, comparing it with the title given by the artist. He looks at all the elements of the composition and tries again to figure out the meaning of the painting, this is not something easy as the composition is geometric and abstract and non representational; and even then there are times when the meaning would be hard to understand.

He imagines that he can experiment by trying out random or conscious repositionings of the elements of the composition, not necessarily by imposing constraints, so that noumerous new compositions are created through the use of the same elements but keeping any connections that they may have between each other the same as in the original painting. He assumes that some of them have aesthetic values and others not at all. He wonders if it would somehow be possible to pick up the compositions that have aesthetic values. He speculates even if all new compositions have the same elements and connectivity, their meaning is not the same as the meaning of the original.

There are many virtual galleries of art where the viewer can select which painting he can look at and listen to the art criticism about it; he can choose to look at any of the numerous paintings on the gallery. But he is a virtual viewer who can go inside the 3D/VR representation of the selected painting and move about inside it, or even fly/hover all over each and every element of the 3D/VR composition of the elements as solids. The ‘frame’, (outer bounds) of the painting will not necessarily be static; it could be a plane, a rectangular box or a sphere or it could be Unity 3D’s perspective camera’s frustrum.

Initially, the viewer/First Person Controller has a height of 180 centimeters and he stands one meter away from the painting. In the Unity 3D scene the First Person Controller is inside the scene and his height is related to the scale of the painting, maybe it has to be between 1/6 and 1/12 of the paintings (or at some other ratio that can be found by trial and error) as it is rendered in the 3D/VR environment. The scale of the painting will differ somewhat depending on whether or not we see it as a side or as a plan view.

He is allowed, if he so wishes, to cause the repositioning of the elements, either to random positions with or without constraints, or by pushing them, provided that their weight and size is less than his own. An after effect of a repositioning is that it may cause an element to collide with another and this invokes the laws of physics that cause further colliding between the elements or himself and more repositioning.

This 3D/VR implementation is done in Unity 3D with code written in C sharp and includes AI routines where it is applicable. The viewer acts as a First Person Controller and has a number of lives that become diminished when an element twice his size or more collides with him. When all his lives are finished, the viewer is removed from the 3D/VR environment and finds himself again in the gallery and in front of the painting.

Stages of Implementation

  1. Setting up the scene includes: 3D representation of the Abstract Painting, Camera View, Lighting , Environment (floor, Sky), First Person Controller.
  2. Testing and adjusting the scale of the 3D environment in relation to the height of the First Person Controller.
  3. Testing the movement of the First Person Controller within the scene: walk, run, jump, float.
  4. Testing the Random Repositioning the 3D geometric elements of the painting under the laws of physics and with the constraint that they remain mostly within the scene (With the First Person Controller static and at the edge of the scene).
  5. Testing the grabbing by the First Person Controller of small elements of the painting and moving them about and placing them in new positions.
  6. As the First Person Controller activates the random repositioning of the 3D geometric elements of the painting within the 3D/VR scene which may result in the loss of on of his lives as the elements collide between themselves and also with him.

Literature Review

Practice Based Research Topic

Using game engine applications for the construction of a MoMA Art Event mockup reinterpreting a series of geometric abstract paintings as Participatory 3D and VR environments. The spectator, as a First Person Controller (FPC) in a game engine, can see/experience and alter interactively these virtual geometric abstract paintings.

In a Participatory and Interactive Installation using as an interface a game engine FPC, the enviroment is seen from the viewpoint of the spectator just like the player character in computer games. A FPC can be preconfigured in a multitude of ways: by defining his height, scale, mass, how he runs, jumps, flies, hovers etc. Additionally, through scripts, computer language programs, these properties can be extended much further.

The design, planning and implementation, often with use of a game engine, of such Art Events is accomplished through the collaboration of numerous specialists such as art theoriticians, concept artists, and computer specialists under the direction of curators. Game engines for creating virtual Participatory and Interactive Installations have been used since the year 2000. James Cui (2017) has been active since 2004 in stage design, video mapping, generative animation, software design for art installations and has held workshops for visual artists wishing to use game engines to create interactive and generative visual environments. Christiane Paul (2008) presents the emerging technologies used by numerous virtual artists. She argues that an artist using a game engine is able to expand and modify virtual worlds. She points out that game engines support ‘level editors’ which give amateur designers the tools to develop their own virtual environments. In this way they are able to customise their virtual content by creating modifications or extensions that radically transform the features of their artwork for interactive/virtual installations and the behaviour of users immersed within it.
Colin B. Price (2008) has presented a paper describing the use of a game engine to produce ‘Immersive Environments’, and enumerates the prospects of the technology leading to novel forms of artistic expession in the contemporary digital art scene. She is confident that it is now possible to use game engine technologies to represent in innovative ways the art projects of various twentieth-century abstract artists in order to more fully realize their potentials and philosophies.

In a Participatory and Interactive Installation a curator, an artist or an interactive artist may wish to incorporate specifically selected game routines, such as lives for the user/spectator, score etc. Celia Pearce (2006) advocates that such inclusion of Game Art in an installation would result in the disruption of a number of artistic privileges.This upsets many artists because they are concerned that if they hand over their artwork to the spectators, their point of view will be greatly undermined. However, presently artists and curators have accepted the fact that Participatory and Interactive Art impose the sharing of the art-making practice with the audience.

Currently, art and culture concentrate actively on the participation of people in events in ways not tried before. Not simply as viewers, but as collaborators who dynamically contribute to art and culture and are allowed to drastically modify a work of art through interfacing with it. (Arken Bulletin, Vol.7, 2017).

Kathy Brown (2014) asserts that within the contemporary art scene, Participatory and Interactive Art have yielded extensive critical discussions, most of which concentrate on their social impact. These differences of opinion are about the type of public taking part in the artwork and hardly ever about the technical side of the participatory works implementation. Nicolas Bourriaud (1997) even allows the exclusive involvement of artworld insiders. Claire Bishop(2004) supports the view that there should not be participatory works that address primarily a faction of elitist artworld insiders because the works’ potential for generating worthwhile social experimentations would be greatly reduced. She and Don Ritter (2009) also note that when art uses the participation of people, ethics should not withdraw completely.

Participatory and Interactive Art are primarily invoking the spectator’s behaviour rather than anything else. From creativity’s point of view, the practice of the interactive artist is, therefore, quite different to that of a painter. A painting is static while the interactive art is as variable as the responses of the spectators to the artwork’s activity. (Ernest Edmonds, 2015). The interactive artist uses triggers in various artworks in order to release it to the control of the spectators for additional handling, treatment, modification etc. (Patricia Reed 2008). In Istanbul Biennial, 2007, David Goldenberg handed over an art installation to the visitors who could do anything they pleased with it in order to see whether or not the existing form would generate further objectives; this gave rise to a number of extended uses for the art work by diverse audiences. (David Goldenberg, 2008).

A curator would choose to focus on geometrical abstraction paintings as a theme for an Interactive Art Event because they exist in a nonillusionistic space and are topologically nonobjective compositions that invoke thought provoking conceptual meanings. It would be quite a challenge, and innovation at the same time, to metamorphose it into a 3D/VR Interactive environment while remaining non-representational, and object-free. As geometric abstraction evolved through the Cubist deconstruction of visual reality and reformulation of the established conventions of form and space; many artists followed this geometric abstraction and converted it into their own creative language. (Magdalena Dabrowski, 2004).

It must be noted that quite a number of geometrical abstraction paintings that a curator would choose as a theme, such as the Proun series of El Lisssitsky and some of the works of László Moholy-Nagy and others, go beyond the two dimensions that most geometrical paintings are made of and are depicted in a 3D illusionistic space through innovative conceptual topology. Richard J. Difford (1995) even supports the view that Lissitsky’s Prouns invoke the illusion of four-dimensional space. Esther Levinger (1987) notes that Lissitsky viewed art as a game and he created complex artwork along those lines. Rosa Maria Oliveira (2011) presents a detailed account of László Moholy-Nagy’s experimentations and the distinctiveness of his geometric abstraction paintings as ‘Light and Shadows in Holography’.

The ‘variable paintings’ of Öyvind Fahlström are interactively rearrangeable. This is an innovation that came about through Fahlström’s discovery of concretism, his interest in semiotic theory and pursuit of art as an interactive game art. Basically each ‘variable painting’ was a composition of magnetized elements that could be juxtaposed in various arrangements by the user/spectator just like it is seen in the diverse chess position diagrams. These interactive and open works of art are easily modifiable to new postdigital platforms. (Annika Öhrner, 2012);


Annika Öhrner (2012) “Öyvind Fahlström World making”, in Flash Art, Issue 283, March-April. Available at: Available at: (Assesed: 17/09/2017).

Antonio Sergio Bessa, 2008, Öyvind Fahlström: The Art of Writing,

Arken (2017) ‘The Art of Taking Part’, Arken Bulletin, Vol.7.

Celia Pearce (2006) ‘Game AS Art, The Aesthetics of Play’, Visible Language, 40.1, pp. 66-85

Claire Bishop (2012) Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship, London, New York : Verso.

Christiane Paul (2008), Intelligent Machines, Art game: Digital artists are using game technologies to create bold new works, Technology Review, February 10, 2008. Available at: (Assesed: 22/09/2017).

Colin B. Price (2008) ‘UnrealArt’. A New Medium for Artistic Expression Using a Commercial game Engine: Galleries and Installations. Available at: (Assesed: 17/09/2017).

David Goldenberg and Patricia Reed 2008 What Is a Participatory Practice? Available at: (Assesed:23/09/2017).

Don Ritter (2009) The Ethics of Interactive Installations. Available at: (Assesed:21/09/2017).

Elif Ayiter (2015) ’Smooth Space’ for Avatars: A Proun in the Metaverse. Available at: (Assesed:19/09/2017).

James Cui (2017) Biography. Available at: (Assesed:24/09/2017).

Kathryn Brown(2014) Interactive Contemporary Art: Participation in Practice. Available at: (Assesed: 22/09/2017).

Esther Levinger (1987) ‘El Lissitzky’s Art Games,’ Neohelicon, Vol. 14, Issue 1, pp. 117-191

Magdalena Dabrowski (2004) Geometric Abstraction, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Available at: {Assesed: 20/09/2017).

Nicolas Bourriaud (2002) Relational Aesthetics, Les Presse Du Reel.

Richard J. Difford (1997) Proun: an exercise in the illusion of four-dimensional space, The Journal of Architecture, Vol. 2, Issue 2, pp. 113-144.

Rosa Maria Oliveira (2011) Light and Shadows in Holography- A possible dialogue between Art and Science by using Artistic Holography. Available at: (Assesed: 19/09/2017).