Arts research gains new impetus at Deakin

Advancing Society and Culture

Motion.Lab SRC will provide a fertile breeding ground for diverse artists and arts researchers.

Experts across the creative arts have joined forces for a new phase of collaboration at the new Strategic Research Centre (SRC), Deakin Motion.Lab – Centre for Creative Arts Research (DML-CCAR).

The new SRC expands the scope of Deakin’s renowned movement, art and technology research hub, the Deakin Motion.Lab

With the extra funding and caché, the DML-CCAR SRC will combine research expertise in technology and the arts, with research work spanning virtual and augmented reality, robotics, dance, animation and motion capture, with new expertise in creative writing, persona, cultural and media theory and fine arts. This will open doors to many new collaborative arts research ventures at Deakin.

“There are not many internationally renowned creative arts research centres in Australia, but our goal is to change that,” said the SRC Director, Professor Kim Vincs, who has led the Deakin Motion.Lab for the past 10 years.

“From small to large projects, we will be productive and exciting, and always with a personal touch, as you can’t do art any other way.”

The Centre is well on its way to achieving international renown. Since Deakin Motion.Lab was first established as a small motion capture studio in 2006, it has helped to pioneer the contemporary reconfiguration of Australian dance, opera and theatre through the use of virtual and augmented reality and other technologies.

Under the direction of Professor Vincs, Deakin Motion.Lab has received three Australian Research Council grants and produced innovative works that merged digital and 3D stereo technologies with performing arts.

It has also worked with key commercial partners, creating work for film and television, including credits for “I, Frankenstein” and multiple television commercials with industry partners such as Alt.vfx.

“We didn’t know we were creating a research centre in 2006, but we swiftly started to build our research capacity,” said Professor Vincs.

“Art is about driving forward some of the most important things. Other disciplines have large R&D centres. This is our chance to make that happen for the arts at Deakin.”
Professor Kim Vincs Deakin Motion.Lab Centre for Creative Arts Research

At the recent launch of the SRC, Deakin Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander said it would be a “public face” for Deakin.

“Here, we are known for doing things differently. We have asked ourselves ‘How do we get to be at the digital forefront at Deakin?’ We have developed sophisticated, world-leading IT systems, battery technology and deep chemistry/maths. Motion.Lab has made connections between arts and technology – between beautiful art and the sciences.

“The centre is a fusion that can work commercially and creatively. It can straddle the fast moving international arts sector – delivering for audiences that have changed forever.”

DML-CCAR researchers are working on numerous local and international projects. For instance, with Opera Victoria, researchers are in pre-production for the full-length opera, “Four Saints in Three Acts,” which will be launched on September 30 at the Malthouse Theatre.

Featuring the poetry of Gertrude Stein and funded by the ARC Linkage scheme, the performance is being co-directed by Professor Vincs and will feature 3D scenic imagery, with audiences wearing 3D glasses to see the surreal environments come to life.

The Centre is also pioneering development of a real time visualisation pipeline for film and television. “Deakin Motion.Lab’s Alchemy pipeline” integrates motion and facial capture with virtual environments and characters to allow for a seamless and intuitive creation of games, film and television previsualisation or cartoon content.

Alchemy allows directors to capture full performances, including body and hand movements, facial expression and voice, through motion capture technologies and represents the culmination of Deakin Motion.Lab’s decade-long work in connecting digital technologies to live performing arts.

Upcoming exhibitions by DML-CCAR researchers include motion capture support for “Inside the Ethereal Eye,” a musical homage to Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin for the Melbourne Festival (Oct), as well as other creative arts research projects such as “Thinking Things Through,” for the National Gallery of Victoria (May 2017), the inaugural Asia TOPA festival in Melbourne (February 2017) and, for the second time, a public art installation at the Werribee Treatment Plant (2017).

Other International projects include the development of a virtual set design for a tour of Mozart’s “Magic Flute” in China by the Melbourne Piano Trio, and recent work with Hong Kong’s City University to digitise the movements of Kung Fu masters through movement visualisations.

An innovative approach to publishing non-traditional creative arts research outputs is a centrepiece of the SRC’s goals, looking for new ways to disseminate the work that is being developed in the centre.

“The Centre has two underlying objectives,” noted Professor Vincs. “We will focus on knowledge-based practice and practice-based research in the arts, extending understanding beyond the immediate art work.”

“Creative practice provides a methodology for innovation, especially in the technical field. This needs to be fast and robust, as it is tested on an unforgiving public. Now, with the new SRC, we can take our knowledge and apply it to different areas – providing a breadth of critical thinking about art. Our amazing team is unique in Australia.”

Deakin Motion Lab Centre for Creative Arts Research

The Deakin Motion.Lab team is a highly-experienced collective of artists, designers and programming leaders who specialise in trans-media fields including virtual reality, augmented reality, performing arts, previsualisation, animation and motion capture services.