SIAT graduate student exhibits work at H.R MacMillan Space Centre

August 01, 2023
Star-stuff. Photo © Tim Mah, 2023

Star-Stuff: a way for the universe to know itself, an interactive art installation created by School of Interactive Arts & Technology PhD candidate John Desnoyers-Stewart, will be on display at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre throughout 2023.

Star-Stuff is a hybrid virtual reality artwork cre­ated to remind imm­er­sants of their fun­da­men­tal con­nec­tion to human­ity and the universe.

Brought together remotely using VR headsets or in a co-present instal­la­tion, immersants float through space while their hands are transformed into a myriad of constellations. At the same time, stars emanate from the user’s heart and orbit the user’s body in a cosmic dance.

Through the immersive experience, users can move about and play with the stars to form a galaxy unique to their movements. When a new immersant joins the experience, gravitational effects draw the stars towards each individual forming a new collaborative and dynamic sculpture in the night sky.

Desnoyers-Stewart, who grew up watching Carl Sagan's Cosmos, was inspired to create Star-Stuff as an homage to Sagan's view on how we look out to the stars to learn more about ourselves. Through Star-Stuff, Desnoyers-Stewart hoped to to inspire others to see the universe as a pathway to understanding ourselves.

The goal of the experience is to give immersants a new perspective on themselves, their connection to humanity, and to the universe. At the same time, the artwork aims to teach immersants about the stars through embodied interaction.

Desnoyers-Stewart started working on the project during the COVID-19 pandemic and he also saw its potential to help strangers to feel connected across distances.

“Each person can get something different out of it,” shared Desnoyers-Stewart. “From a meditative moment alone, to connecting with a stranger on the other side of the world, to a playful dance with friends.”

Photo © Amira Ahmed, 2023

For the exhibition at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, Desnoyers-Stewart used a curved wall projection and floor projection to create an immersive space that lets up to 6 people play together among the stars, interacting through a Kinect motion sensing device. This setup allows children to easily enter and engage with the installation without needing to use a headset.

“There I hope to inspire a new generation to learn about space and see how art and science can come together to create a deeper understanding of ourselves and the universe we’re a part of.”

Photo © H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, 2022

The immersive experience will be on exhibition at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre through until the end of 2023.

Learn more about Star-Stuff: