For the December Upgrade! Munich, Tamiko Thiel requests the
honor of your presence and engagement to user-test her work-in-progress
Travels of Mariko Horo," a virtual reality installation.
Tamiko Thiel is developing the dramatic and narrative
capabilities of interactive 3D virtual reality as a medium
for addressing social and cultural issues. She received her
B.S. in 1979 from Stanford University in Product Design Engineering
with a focus on human factors design. Her M.S. was in Mechanical
Engineering in 1983 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
where she studied human-machine design at the Biomechanics
Lab and computer graphics at the precursors to the Media Lab.
She then studied studio art at the Academy of Fine Arts in
Munich, Germany, where she received a Diploma in Applied Graphics
in 1991, specializing in video installation art.
Since then she has been exhibiting internationally in venues
such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Siggraph,
and the ICA/London. She was creative director and producer
of Starbright World, an award-winning 3D online virtual playspace
for seriously ill children done in collaboration with film
director and Starbright Foundation chairman Steven Spielberg.
Her virtual reality installation Beyond Manzanar is in the
permanent collection of the San Jose Museum of Art in Silicon
Valley, California, and is discussed in Whitney Museum media
art curator Christiane Paul’s reference book Digital
Art. Current virtual reality works in progress include "The
Travels of Mariko Horo," a reverse Marco Polo fantasy
about a Japanese woman who constructs the exotic West, and
"Virtuelle Mauer/ReConstructing the Wall" on the
She has taught and lectured internationally at institutions
such as Carnegie Mellon University, the MIT Media Lab, the
Bauhaus-University in Weimar, Germany, UC/San Diego, the University
of Southern California School of Cinema-Television and the
School of Film and Television in Babelsberg, Germany. In 2003
she was a Japan Foundation Fellow in Kyoto, Japan and in 2004-2005
a Research Fellow at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In March 2005 she founded
the Upgrade! Munich.
Travels of Mariko Horo”
Sometime between the 12th and the 22nd centuries a woman journeys
westward from Japan, traveling through space and time. She
is called Mariko Horo, Mariko the Wanderer, and she is searching
for the "Isle of the Blest," the Western Paradise
of Buddhist mythology said to be floating in the Western Seas.
She does indeed find Paradise, but finds also a chilling,
darker side to the West, an island where lost souls are held
in an eternal Limbo. She encapsulates her impressions of the
places she visits in a series of “Horo-grams,”
3D virtual spaces. She invites you to visit her worlds and
see the West through her eyes.
"The Travels of Mariko Horo" is an interactive
3D virtual reality installation. The image is generated in
real time on a fast gaming PC and projected on a large 9’x12’
screen to produce an immersive experience. Users move their
viewpoint through the virtual environment with a joystick
or similar navigational input device. Mariko is a fictitious
character I have invented to incorporate the viewpoint for
this project - users will never actuall see Mariko,
except perhaps in a mirror. In essence they will be
Mariko, seeing the exotic and mysterious Occident through
her eyes and her experiences. The virtual environment is sensitive
to their presence, changing around them as a result of their
movements and actions: An empty church fills with saints who
vanish into the heavens. A basilica transports the user directly
into the Western Cosmos, where angels sing the praises of
the Goddess of Compassion. A pavilion takes users deep into
the underwater realm of the Heavenly King. A plain wooden
chapel leads into a Limbo of constant torment.
Music for Mariko Horo is embedded in the piece itself, localized
to specific places within the 3D worlds. The composer Ping
Jin, Professor of Music at SUNY/New Paltz, studied music both
in his native China and in the USA. Ping describes the music
as “creating a sonic dimension for Mariko's meditation
on the mythic West. Created from both sampled and computer
generated sounds, there are fusions and juxtapositions of
Eastern and Western sounds to enhance the scene and mood of
"The Travels of Mariko Horo" is planned as a series
of journeys, with each journey a complete work in itself.
Completion of the First Journey: In Search of the Western
Paradise will be in late 2005.