Presence to make a point: Trump/Hitler in a VR political cartoon

[Presence can be used to make political statements, as described in this story from Polygon; the original story includes both of the mentioned videos, the second of which features audio from John Oliver’s recent effective and entertaining takedown of Trump, which is available on YouTube. –Matthew]

Tipatat Chennavasin's Trump/Hitler VR cartoon (screenshot)

Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler star in what may be virtual reality’s first political cartoon

It’s not subtle, but it shows the promise of VR to make a point

By Ben Kuchera on Mar 15, 2016

Tilt Brush is a virtual reality painting and sculpture program that allows people to create images in three dimensional space.

One artist recently used the program to draw what amounts to a political cartoon by starting with a caricature of Donald Trump with a hidden twist: if you step through that first image you see a hidden portrait of Adolf Hitler.

We’ve included a video that shows both the drawing process and the act of exploring the final product.

“At a Tilt Brush artshow, my favorite piece was of a campsite with a teepee by a fantastic artist named Akin Bilgic,” Tipatat Chennavasin, general partner at The Venture Reality Fund told Polygon when we asked about the work. “It had an easter egg where if you look inside you saw this great interior. I really liked that idea of looking inside the art and seeing more, which was only possible in VR.”

Comparing political figures to Hitler is nothing new, but it’s taken on a new life with Trump, whose campaign rallies have grown increasingly violent. A clash between protesters and supporters that canceled an event on Friday only increased criticism of Trump in this way.

Chennavasin has been drawing and releasing some amazing pieces in virtual reality for a while now, but this was his first attempt at a political cartoon.

“I thought it was time to try and actually say something since art is most powerful when it has a message or meaning,” he explained. “I am very concerned about the rise of Donald Trump and his brand of ugly bullying and advocacy of violence as the first response and as an artist I wanted to say something about it.”

It’s one thing to see the work described in a video, one of which Polygon made to really show off the work’s 3D aspect, and another that Chennavasin created that is also embedded on this page. But the art loses something unless you’re wearing a Vive yourself and can see the 3D aspect of the drawing, and then step through Trump’s image to see the second portrait underneath.

It’s a work that all but requires virtual reality to experience “correctly,” which is a challenge when so few people have access to the hardware.

“It’s strange but that is entirely the point of what I want to explore with VR,” Chennavasin said. “When it comes to anything I experience in VR, I always ask why is this in VR and how is it a better or more interesting experience because of VR. Otherwise it might be better to do it in the other mediums.”

I asked if drawing a comparison, literally and figuratively, between Hitler and Trump fell into the trap of Godwin’s Law, but Chennavasin disagreed.

“Godwin’s Law points to this ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ problem we have with Trump where when we are finally seeing a demagogue rising up by appealing to the worse of us but when we call it out, it gets lost in the noise,” he explained. “I think one way to stop him is by getting the word out and voting, especially to the people who usually aren’t political.”

Image Source: DonaldJTrump Official Site


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