Empyrean Artist Statement
Melinda Rackham for show at
Art Center Nabi,
Seoul, South Korea

I am floating in the dark, in an infinite void of unlit Virtual Reality space.
There is no light or shadow, no up nor down, nor top or bottom.
There are no markers for me to anchor myself against - no event, no horizon.
I am swimming under a new moon in the dark waters of an other's life world.
The nature of this space is transparent to me, rendered invisible by my or insensitivity, by my inability to see on this wavelength, to comprehend it's subtle levels of detail.
Is this emptiness hungry, meaningless and vacuous?
Or is it a flexible and fluxing state
- an energetic void in which reality exists.

Empyrean is a soft space constructed on the internet in Virtual Reality Modeling Language, a parallel universe to the hard spaces we inhabit each day. It contains seven intertwined e-scapes, - order, truth, beauty, strangeness, charm, chaos, and void. These zones are realms of the spirit, arenas beyond space and time which are simultaneously contained within the screen, just as the medieval empyrean of christianity was the containing sphere or outer limit of the universe, the arena where god and the angels where thought to live.
The work is an investigation of the colonization of the virtual - confronting the re-creation of urban spaces and the pioneering metaphor that has infested the web as users try to remake online virtual space as a poor imitation of the real. It is a space with no attachments to offline reality, a place of emptiness - of hungry voids, of gaps and environment, which has no horizon line to anchor oneself against, and no attachment to offline hard space. Empyrean deliberately does not provide pathways to follow so that the viewer must transverse the otherworldly yet oddly familiar domains thru their senses, by feeling one's way thru this immersive environment with its in-tensions and strange attractions.

Here we are transparently and softly embodied, interacting via avatars that have no human characteristics whatsoever, rather being cellular or electronic constructions communicating by sound and gesture rather than being represented by avatars of idealized racial and gender stereotypes. Avatars communicate with each other through the text interface on the net site developed by the Open Source V-net Server, and also they may squeak, squawk, blink, swell up and go opaque, gurgle, giggle, blush, etc to communicate with each other .

The soundscape designed by Mitchell Whitelaw is an integral part of the immersion. It is spatialized and attached to the etheric objects, which are mostly moving and often set at different pitches, so once inside the world the sound is constantly shifting around the viewer's avatar. In a sense you could navigate by sound alone as each zone is distinctive -like the glassy crunching and grinding spheres of chaos, or the frenetic cellular skating rink in charm, or the tinkling birdsong of the delicately choreographed neurons in void.
By using VRML to explore the three dimensional spatiality of the internet I am constructing something other, a place that is sensory in an electronic way, that is both external and internal. The purpose of empyrean is to remind us that we are the creators of our own simultaneously subjective and objective viewpoint.




To view the Empyrean website:


For more information on Melinda’s work:


For more information on Mitchell’s work


Stuttgart Film Festival 2001:


Montreal Biennale 2000


Leonardo New Horizons Awards:



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