Peter Walken doesn’t just walk the walk—he walks the talk
Take a stroll along a serene nature trail. Feel the gentle breeze on your cheek, hear the mosquitoes buzz around your head. Inhale and savour the splendid scents of wildflowers, grass, growth and thawing droppings. Let yourself be transported to this magical place, without setting foot outside.
Montreal-based artist Peter Walken from the Aris Pollof Stride Foundation will be launching his mind-bending and perception-stretching, fully immersive virtual reality installation this summer.
“I am interested in how people take walks. I like walks, they calm me,” said Walken, who spent three years painstakingly collecting only the best sound and video with his iPhone 3S, his camera of choice. “Because I like walks so much, I wanted to bring the best walk ever to the people of Montreal. Because walks are great.”
Walken’s installation, called A Walk, looks like a simple public toilet haphazardly spray-painted black from the outside. But once you step in, wonderful technological abilities will transport you to a relaxing paradise. The installation does this through effective use of the newest developments in immersive technologies. It is nature, without the hassle of being nature.
Once you enter the installation, you have but a few simple steps between you and the start of your journey. First, you are strapped into a Virtuix Omni, an active virtual reality platform, so you can control where you walk on your walk. A step in real life is a step taken in your virtual walk. After you are strapped in, all that you need to do is put on the virtual reality headset provided and match it to your exact eye strength, in order to best observe the delicate shapes of leaves and twigs around you. Once that is complete, you set the sound to your preferred levels and set the fan to how much airflow you want to experience, with levels ranging from ‘gentle breeze’ to ‘caressing wind’ and ‘my eyes are stinging.’
And then, you go. Each user is allowed up to five minutes of walking time in order to let everyone have a turn, which costs $9.99 plus tax.
Walken took extreme measures in order to make the walk as close to reality as possible. He even included plastic twigs that slap you across the face and synthetic flies to buzz around your head and land on your arms to simulate a lived experience.
“I realized while on a walk that not many people had ever really enjoyed a walk in nature. So I really wanted to make the walk as real as possible,” said Walken. “These state-of-the-art immersive technologies will create the closest thing to walking in reality that there is.”
A Walk will be exposed from June 25 to August 18. The installation will travel across different areas in Montreal, in order to allow the most people to try the installation. Walken has already identified 10 parks and green spaces where he wants his installation to appear, in order to give residents a “real-world” experience of being in a park.
Full details and schedule of Walken’s amazing travelling installation will be released on April 1.