This month, Mozilla Hubs, a place where you can get together with friends online in a virtual social space, partnered with concept artist Ashley Zelinskie for her New York exhibit, “Unfold the Universe: First Light”. The exhibition features his VR work “Unfolding the Universe: A NASA Webb VR Experience” in Mozilla Hubs. The exhibition runs until October 23 (more details, visit here), and for those who wish to visit virtually, you can visit the VR part of the exhibition here: https://unfoldtheuniverse.myhubs.net/.
Earlier this year, Mozilla Hubs was contacted by concept artist Ashley Zelinskie about a project with the NASA James Webb team. They wanted to make space exploration accessible to everyone. Mozilla Hubs took this off-world opportunity as a chance to do some real-life testing with their subscription service before rolling it out next week.
On December 25, 2021, the James Webb Telescope was launched into space. Concept artist Ashley Zelinskie wanted to commemorate the launch in a way that was approachable and accessible to many people. She worked with Mozilla Hubs to create an immersive experience featuring an animated sculpture and an interactive portrait of NASA James Webb team. She featured the Mozilla Hubs installation titled “Unfolding the Universe: A NASA Webb VR Experience” in her solo exhibition, “Unfolding the Universe: First Light.” It includes data from the telescope’s “first images” released last July. The immersive experience could be viewed through live projections on gallery walls as part of the installation or directly through a web browser which is also available here. We caught up with Ashley Zelinskie to learn more about her experience working with Mozilla Hubs.
How did you hear about Mozilla Hubs?
I had attended a few events in Mozilla Hubs. During the pandemic, friends were organizing art exhibitions in the Hubs in order to share their work during the confinement. Thanks to a virtual residency I was doing with Agora Digital Arts, I met Pierre-François Gérard from Metaxu Studio and started building my own VR experience.
Had you ever worked in virtual spaces before Mozilla Hubs?
Not really. All of my artwork starts digital and then I have it made. So I was no stranger to digital work, but I had never focused on the end result. It was interesting to see all the steps needed to polish and produce a completely digital piece.
Did you encounter any challenges working with this new form of media?
I had never done anything in VR when the Webb team approached me, and they wanted something accessible especially during the pandemic. Most of my work starts digitally where I will be using 3D models. I don’t use shaders or animation. I’m going to use a gray model, then have it 3D printed and finished in the real world. I had never created it in this new environment. There were steps that I hadn’t thought of as an artist. I worked with Pierre who helped me see that I don’t have to face reality and that I can make things fly and float. It was really eye-opening to see that I can spin and fly things. I no longer had to worry about the real world issues I had before with 3D printed items like this sagging under gravity when I design. Once I changed my mindset, I could create stars, planets, black holes, and accretion disks. None of this could ever happen in the real world. I was able to achieve the impossible and reverse the design process.
Have you had a technological background as a developer/coder? What was your experience in creating this art installation?
I have no experience as a developer or coder. I found Hubs extremely accessible. I don’t think there is another virtual reality service on the market that is so accessible to people without experience.
What made you decide to use Hubs for this specific project with NASA and the Onassis Foundation?
Hubs was an easy choice for this project. When I was thinking of a way to raise awareness during a pandemic with Maggie from Team Webb, we landed on VR. It seemed like the most immersive and interesting way to engage and interest people. However, we didn’t want to exclude people who didn’t have fancy VR headsets or little VR experience. Hubs was the democratic solution to all this logistics. If we were going to invite the world to experience the Webb Telescope, we wanted everyone to be able to attend.
For the upcoming event, what specific art installations will be present in Mozilla Hubs?
We will be exhibiting a few different works of art in Mozilla Hubs. The first being the one we created to commemorate the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope entitled “Unfolding the Universe: A NASA Webb VR experience”. This piece includes interactive portraits of scientists and engineers from the Webb team, a custom musical soundscape, and a digitally animated version of sculptures that will be featured in the ONX gallery. Since the release of the first images, we have created two new works to reflect the new findings. One of the works depicts exoplanet spectroscopy data as a mountainous landscape of rainbow auroras and the other is a totally new VR world inside the black hole at the center of the planet. cartwheel galaxy.
Note: All photos are credited to Caroline Xia, ONX Studio
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