ARTISTS are often spoken about in terms of pushing the boundaries, but very few are pushing as hard as Ruvan Wijesooriya. Take in one of his latest projects, for instance, and you feel as though you are witnessing something truly unique unfold before your eyes. And nose – and ears!
A world-renown fashion, music and celebrity photographer based in New York, Wijesooriya is famed for his six-year tour with the band LCD Soundsystem that produced the critically-acclaimed book of the same name.
He’s also shot all manner of celebs for the pages of Vogue, The Face and The New York Times.
But last year he put on one of his most ambitious projects yet – a Virtual Reality installation that transports its audience into a different world through bringing the senses to life.
Pushing and blurring the boundaries between vision, sound, smell and memory, Spaces gave a glimpse of a completely new and fresh direction art could be heading towards on a more regular basis in the not so distant future.
He said: “It’s one of a number of things I’ve been working on. It’s a multi-sensory art experience that offers participants the opportunity to escape reality. The experience awakens us to our senses, our minds and our bodies and challenges us to go inward.”
The concept drew on photos the artist took during a trip to the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico which he then ripped in half and put together in a VR format.
The VR headset wearer is transported to a Virtual world made up of the photos, that when paired with unique scents put together by a professional perfumer and sound, invoke meditative states and conjure up memories and imagery.
The format is already being studied by professors and neuroscientists at New York University as a way to induce deep relaxation, with the thought it could be used within schools for meditation or as an alternative therapy.
Ruvan continued: “There are a lot of layers. You are in the experience from the perspective of a light particle linked to the universe. The metaphor is based on the birth of life. You are going through the clouds into the water and are hit by the sun and the sun creates life.
“While you are immersed in this, you are hit by different scents and sounds.
“It creates associations and helps your brain do all the special effects for you.
“A lot of people don’t recognise anything they are looking at and so are egoless – and it helps stimulate a meditative state that in turn conjures up memories and dreams.
“A friend who lost his mother visualised his mother finding her place in the universe. Other people have reported seeing their children as embryos in the womb; others have childhood memories or revisit memories of playing on the beach as a child.
“Children who put it on exclaim ‘it’s beautiful’ and find it a calming influence.”
Ruvan’s company Spaces has arms in fragrance, photography, music and art, but for this particular project wanted something that combined virtual and real world experiences and explored the expansion of space.
Darryl Do, a perfumer and chemist from the Bronx, created unique fragrances representing concepts such as fresh greenery, vegetation by the beach or fruits and flowers.
Meanwhile, a soundtrack put together by The Rapture’s Gabe Andruzzi, calls to mind a sense of place.
The way the scents help conjure up lasting memories while the person is immersed in the abstract has already seen his ideas grab the attention of major fragrance companies and he is keen on developing this line of the concept.
But he is also aware that it has the ability to help people through meditation.
He added: “I wanted to create a space where people could escape life, but I didn’t realise how much it could help people – but now we are seeing all its holistic benefits.
“It’s a visual meditation. It creates artwork that doubles as being therapeutic.
“But it’s also about making scent into an experience. Having scents and experiences as one.”
For more on Ruvan, check out his website https://ruvan.com