PLACE - Hampi is a vibrant theatre for embodied participation in the drama of Hindu mythology, focused at the most significant archaeological, historical and sacred locations of the World Heritage Site Vijayanagara (Hampi), in South India. Its aesthetic and representational features constitute a new approach to the rendering of cultural experience, and give the viewer a dramatic appreciation of the many-layered significations of this site.
PLACE - Hampi uses an innovatively designed visualization and interaction environment to articulate the viewer’s co-presence in a narrative rediscovery of this culturally significant landscape. It is based on the artistic paradigm developed in PLACE - a user's manual (1995). Using this motorized platform, viewers can rotate the projected image within an immersive 9-metre diameter, 360-degree screen, and explore high-resolution augmented stereoscopic panoramas showing many of Hampi's most significant locations. While PLACE - Hampi provides for single-user interaction, the exploration of its enlivened panoramic scenes constitutes a kinesthetic experience involving the entire audience.
The virtual setting of PLACE - Hampi is a boulder-strewn landscape populated by a constellation of sixteen cylinders, each one of which is a high-resolution, 360-degree stereoscopic photographic panorama shot on location. Embedded within the rich scenery of some of these immersive panoramas are narrative events enacted by computer-graphic characters representing the protagonists of the Hindu mythologies. These animations possess the popular ‘magical realism’ aesthetic that is specific to the region, and include depictions of Ganesha, Lord Shiva and Garuda.
The sixteen cylinders are positioned in a terrain whose ground is marked with an iconic drawing of Hanuman, a symbolic representation of Kishkinda, the mythological monkey kingdom depicted in the Ramayana and considered to be located at Hampi. The monitor screen that is part of the user interface shows an aerial view of this virtual environment centred on the viewer’s position there, and the sixteen panoramas are arranged over this ground plan of Hanuman’s body.
Ambisonic-sound field recordings, made at Hampi at the exact time and location of each panoramic photograph, accompany PLACE - Hampi’s visual landscape. Those panoramas that are augmented with animations of Hindu gods are additionally enlivened by Dr. L. Subramaniam’s classical Carnatic musical compositions. As the visitor navigates PLACE - Hampi, the dynamic interactive rendering system delivers an immersive sonic experience that is intimately connected with the visually panoramic and augmented space. The conjunction of these singular strategies of representation provides for a profound level of viewer co-presence in the narrative exploration of a virtual culturally profound landscape.
Australian Research Council Project Investigators: Dennis Del Favero, Jeffrey Shaw, Neil Brown, Paul Compton, Maurice Pagnucco, Andre Van Schaik, Craig Jin, Peter Weibel, Sarah Kenderdine, Tim Hart, John Fritz, Volker Kuchelmeister
Industry Partners: Paprikaas Animation Studio, Archaeological Survey of India, Museum Victoria, ZKM Karlsruhe.
Australian Research Council Project Title: Reformulating narrative in virtual heritage using a co-evolutionary model of immersive interactivity.
Australian Research Council Linkage Grant: LP0669163