About this project
Thanks and congratulations to all our backers for making this happen!
If you’ve missed it, you can still support the project here. We’ll be working on this for a while!…
We are Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn. We’re a wife and husband team working out of Ghent, Belgium. We’ve been making videogames together — as Tale of Tales — for the past 12 years. This new project, however, is a little bit different.
Our vocation has always been the arts. And with Cathedral-in-the-Clouds we want to return to some of our original inspirations for working with interactive media — as expressed, for instance, in the Realtime Art Manifesto.
We think of Cathedral-in-the-Clouds as an ever expanding collection of virtual dioramas depicting scenes created for contemplation. The individual pieces will be available in a variety of digital media (downloads, web, apps, video, etc). Or they can be explored together in virtual reality (VR) in the eponymous cathedral. The subject matter for the dioramas is inspired by the medieval art that we find ourselves surrounded by in our home town of Ghent in Flanders.
Despite of being atheists, we can’t help being intensely moved by some of the religious art made during the Gothic and Renaissance period. These experiences can’t convert us to Christianity but they do make us think about universal themes as kindness, self-sacrifice, patience, empathy, love, and so on. We feel they make us better people. These experiences are intense and often accompanied by tears. And they last! They stay with us, become part of us, tremendously improve our lives on this planet.
We love visiting museums and churches in search of these experiences. But it’s not always convenient to do so. And since there’s all this wonderful technology now, it really shouldn’t be necessary anymore. We should all have works of art in our pockets or on our laptops, for when the mood strikes, or when we need a moment of calm and focus. On top of convenience, computer graphics running in realtime are not confined to 2D static images anymore. Now we can create scenes that are three-dimensional and alive (and still fit in your pocket and can be shared generously)!
Each individual diorama in the virtual cathedral consists of a box that houses a life-size virtually sculpted body. Often the body of a saint, or the Virgin Mary or Jesus Christ himself. The way that they are depicted always refers to some ancient tale. But don’t worry, we’ll make sure to explain the context of each piece, in case you’re not familiar with this particular part of the story.
The dioramas are alive. Air flows, light shifts, insects scurry around, wind affects clothes, chests move when breathing, and so on. Accompanied by subtle, immersive sound effects. In many scenes an event will slowly unfold, from a beginning to an end. This should help you take the time needed for the contemplative effect. These are not casual experiences! They are a form of meditation that require a certain state of mind that may take some effort or concentration to achieve. But it’s so very much worth it! Such experiences can be life enhancers, sensation multipliers. They open our eyes and help us embrace and enjoy existence as it presents itself.
Why? Why now?
We have wanted to work with ancient religious themes for many years. But it’s only now that we have figured out how to shape this desire. We think that, with your support, we can now bring something of real value into this world.
Cathedral-in-the-Clouds is intended to be our masterwork. We consider it to be a long term project that we want to continue to work on, perhaps for the rest of our lives. It is the ultimate art piece we want to create. Beyond this we have no desires. I believe we have now achieved the experience and maturity that can enable us to create a work of the magnitude we envision. There is no guarantee that we will succeed. But it is certain that we cannot even start without your help! Would you like to be involved in one of the craziest, ambitious, innovative and provocative art projects of the century? Then pick your reward!
We will be making this entire project and all the individual pieces by ourselves. Between the two of us, we have all the skills and experience needed to pull this off. We are looking forward to the long periods of intense and painstaking work to create these intricate pieces without the distractions and stress that conventional team work brings.
We started collaborating in 1999 — on a server called hell.com of all places. As Entropy8Zuper! we created hundreds of websites for numerous clients and several net.art pieces that still find an audience today.
In 2002 we switched to making videogames. We’ve published 8 games: The Endless Forest, The Graveyard, The Path, Fatale, Vanitas, Bientôt l’été, Luxuria Superbia and Sunset. Hopefully you’ve heard of some of those. If you haven’t make sure you pick an award tier that includes them so you can start exploring our wonderful virtual worlds immediately!
We want to release all the pieces that come out of this project to the public for free. Because we feel we should avoid commercial pressure when creating art of this magnitude. So we really need your support to make this work. Backing Cathedral-in-the-Clouds does not just enable us to create this ambitious work of art. But it is also a gift to humanity as a whole. Yes, we do believe that art can change the world! Don’t you?
Rewards are cumulative: each reward includes all the rewards above it.
€5 « C h a s t e » Support the project and you will receive all private updates we send to Kickstarter backers in perpetuity. That way you will be kept abreast on what's going on.
€8 « G r a c i o u s » On top of the private Kickstarter updates, you will gain free access to our subscription-based development log where we share our most intimate thoughts, plans and processes concerning the creation of Cathedral-in-the-Clouds and any other projects we are working on or hoping to work on one day. You also get to experience the dioramas created with this Kickstarter one month before the general public does.
€13 « V i r t u o s » By reading the Kickstarter updates and the development log you will know exactly what's going on. But we will also notify you when an actual piece of Cathedral-in-the-Clouds is ready to be explored, one month before it is available to the general audience. To prepare for the experience, you also get the full version of our game The Graveyard (for PC, Mac, Linux & Android).
€21 « P i o u s » During the production, we will write about our progress, ideas and feelings, either closely related to Cathedral-in-the-Clouds or more general. Some of this may be published in the development log. But at the end of the project, or when we feel we have arrived at a nice mile stone, we will bundle all these essays in a digital book. A bit like we have done for our game Bientôt l'été. On top of the book you also get the remake of our 1999-2006 piece The Godlove Museum to explore our first collaborative excursion into religious themes (on PC or Mac).
€34 « D e v o u t » If you want a bit more than just reading about our production and you don't mind getting your hands dirty, we can send you early builds of the projects in progress. This will give you more insight in our process, satisfy your curiosity and provide you with the opportunity to send us feedback on the build that we can take into account to improve the work. We will also thank you on Twitter so everyone knows how devout you are. And thanks to the generosity of their world-renowned composers, you also get the soundtracks to our games The Path by Jarboe & Kris Force, Bientôt l'été by Walter Hus and Sunset by Austin Wintory.
€34 « O v e r z e a l o u s » Next to all the rewards above, you will get download links and Steam keys where available to all of over games: The Endless Forest (Windows only), The Graveyard (Windows, Mac, Linux & Android), The Path (Windows & Mac), Fatale (Windows, Mac & Linux), Vanitas (Android), Bientôt l'été (Windows, Mac & Linux), Luxuria Superbia (Windows, Mac, Linux & Android) and Sunset (Windows, Mac & Linux). Careful: this one is for 200 early birds only!
€55 « Z e a l o u s » Same as above but your name will also appear in the credits of the project.
€89 « I m m a c u l a t e » Next to all of the games we have released, and all the other rewards above, you get exclusive download links to a treasure chest of experiments and prototypes that we dug out of our archives and bundled for the occasion of our 10 year anniversary as a company. Please find the details here. This bundle is not for sale anymore. This is the only way to get it! We will also send you an actual non-virtual postcard to thank you for your support.
€144 « S a i n t l y » This is where things get serious. On top of all the trinkets above, we will honor your support of the building of Cathedral-in-the-Clouds exactly how this has been done throughout the ages: by putting your name on the eternal cyberwalls of the building. Everyone who enters this hallowed hall will see how saintly you are.
€233 « H o l y » We love living in Ghent, capital of the medieval County of Flanders, cradle of the Northern Renaissance and a fairy-tale like place to explore. And we live right next to the center of it all, just outside the former city moat. We invite you to come stare at the Gothic cathedral of Saint Bavo from our studio window in the attic of our home, a slender four story city house from the 19th century. Next we will take you on a tour of the city and lead you around the interior of our beloved cathedral that has inspired us so much throughout the years.
€377 « C e l e s t i a l » In the olden days, kings and queens were buried in cathedrals. Many cathedrals to this very day still have tomb stones instead of floor tiles. We will bury you in Cathedral-in-the-Clouds! But since this is a virtual cathedral there's no need for you to die first. We will simply make a beautiful tomb stone with a stylized rendition of your appearance and put it on the floor. An honor fit for a celestial king or queen!
€610 « A n g e l i c » A cathedral would be nothing without beautiful statues of saints. Since we often don't know exactly what these saints looked like, artists can take some liberties in creating their likeness. So we hope that you would want to have your features immortalised as a holy man or woman. We can discuss any preference for the exact saint you might want to be depicted as. There's many to choose from!
€987 « D i v i n e » Cathedral-in-the-Clouds will become the home for hopefully many art pieces over time. For each of these pieces a new chapel will be added to the virtual building. Much like in the old cathedrals, we will offer the opportunity to patrons to have a chapel of their own, dedicated to the saint of their preference, and decorated in a way that pleases them. The "Divine" reward of the Cathedral-in-the-Clouds will be the first such chapel. And this is also the only time when this feature will be available at such a low cost. Your very own Chapel-in-the-Clouds!
€6765 « T r i n i t y » The Cathedral-in-the-Clouds will be renamed after you, as one of the three sacred benefactors that form a holy trinity to watch over this most ambitious artistic endeavor. So if your name would be William, and the two others would be called Robin and Alice, Cathedral-in-the-Clouds will be renamed to "St William, St Robin and St Alice in the Clouds". Has quite a ring to it, wouldn't you say? Since you get the whole cathedral there would not be much point in making a chapel or a statue for you. But you will get everything else of course, we were just trying to grab some attention when we said "none of the above". Have our firstborn, please!
Cathedral-in-the-Clouds is a huge project. Much like the old cathedrals, we will be building it bit by bit, starting with the choir, all the way in the East (top of the map above). Through this crowdfunding campaign we want to lay the foundations of the virtual cathedral and create two dioramas: one featuring Eve with the snake from paradise and the other a Holy Virgin nursing baby Jesus.
Later, step by step we will expand and decorate the cathedral and add more dioramas.
Cathedral-in-the-Clouds website: www.cathedral-in-the-clouds.net
Cathedral-in-the-clouds Twitter: @cloudscathedral
Cathedral-in-the-Clouds reference Tumblr: kijkdoos.tumblr.com
Music from G.B. Pergolesi's Stabat Mater in F minor, arranged by J.S. Bach, performed by and licensed from The Bach Players.
Nice things people say about us
Risks and challenges
In terms of technology, Cathedral-in-the-Clouds is much simpler than any of the videogames we've created. Since we're planning on using similar tools, we don't foresee any technical problems we can't overcome. And after having released 8 videogames over 12 years, in spite of low budgets, small teams and tight deadlines, we feel confident that we can deliver.
With Cathedral-in-the-Clouds we hope to give you a deep aesthetic experience. So the biggest risk in this project is that we may simply not succeed in creating something that moves you. This is especially daunting considering the absolute masterpieces by the Flemish Primitives that inspire us. Realistically, there is no chance that we will ever make anything that good. But we will try to get as close as possible through smart and hard work.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The cathedral building will exist only in Virtual Reality. To visit it, a pilgrimage will need to be done to a VR headset. We're currently working with the Oculus Rift on Windows and OS X.
The individual dioramas, which are the real focus of this project, will be created for multiple platforms and devices, as many as feasible. We may make multiple versions of a diorama for specific platforms. So there may be a realtime 3D downloadable program to experience Eve and the Snake on a fast PC equipped with a recent 3D videocard (a game computer, basically), but also an interactive tablet app, a scrollable website and even something as simple as a video on !YouTube, showing the same diorama.
We don't want to compromise the integrity of the pieces, though. So we will always carefully choose the platforms that are suitable for the experience. Likely to be supported are Windows, Mac OS X, iOS and Android since we have a lot of experience with those.
We believe part of the power of the old masterpieces is how well suited the shapes and treatments are to the medium used. This cannot be replicated on a screen. You can only have the deepest aesthetic experience in the presence of the actual object.
For Cathedral-in-the-Clouds, we want to create art that is native to the digital medium. Art that is made to be at home on the screen, that only works when running on a processor. Art that takes advantages of computer graphics for creation of shape and color (not reproduction!).
We will try to use CPU-on-screen like the Old Masters used paint-on-panel.
No. We use videogame technology and our experience with developing videogames to create a digital work of art that is unique.
This isn't the first time the Bible has inspired us. In fact, meeting each other in cyberspace in 1999 felt so divine that we presented our union to the world as "Genesis". After that we made 4 more pieces of net.art completing our very personal digital Pentateuch. We have bundled these as The Godlove Museum. In our games with Tale of Tales we've also regularly referred to Christianity. The identification of the deer in The Endless Forest was inspired by the legend of Saint Hubert. The graveyard of the eponymous vignette is a Christian burial place. And in Fatale we explored the legend of the biblical princess Salome. Throughout our career we've had numerous ideas for games inspired by churches and saints.
After visiting the neo-gothic splendor of the cathedral of Notre Dame in Montréal in 2011 this idea really hooked its fangs in us never to let go. We kept breaking our head over how we could possibly make a videogame out of a Madonna Lactans, a Pietà or an Annunciation. And it was only after we took some distance from the game industry that the idea came to us, among the beautiful medieval collection of altarpieces in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne.
As opposed to most of our videogames, we want to create Cathedral-in-the-Clouds on our own, just the two of us.
Auriea Harvey was born 1971 in Indianapolis, IN, USA and has a B.F.A. in Sculpture from Parsons School of Design in New York City. In 1995 she started http://entropy8.com
Michaël Samyn was born 1968 in Poperinge, Belgium and graduated in Graphic Design at Sint-Lucas, Gent, Belgium. In 1995 he started http://zuper.com
In 1999 we met and merged our websites to http://entropy8zuper.org to work as self-employed designers of websites and independent artists using new media and the internet. Then in 2002 we founded http://tale-of-tales.com to design artistic videogames of which 8 have been released, The Path being the best known. After our last game, Sunset, we decided to stop relying on commerce to support our work.
We are both children of people who matured during the 1960s, Auriea in the US, Michaël in Belgium. As such our beliefs are a bit all over the place.
Michaël: “My parents were explicitly atheist but they sent me to Catholic schools anyway because at the time they were considered to offer better education. That's how I became familiar with the Christian faith and its rituals. This experience did not convert me but it gave me a lasting appreciation of the positive effects that the church has on society. I still enjoy visiting churches and regularly attend a service at the cathedral in Ghent. But I'm not religious in any formal sense. I appreciate the art and philosophy of Christianity, and I feel my life is enriched by the teachings of the Bible, but I don't believe there's an old man with a grey beard sitting on a cloud above us. Would be cool, though!”
I was deeply affected by reading “Religion for Atheists” by Alain de Botton. The book describes how our contemporary world could be improved by some of the benefits that religion used to bring. When the Western world liberated itself from the authority of the church, we also lost much of the inspirations and behaviors that helped organize society and improved the personal well-being of citizens. The book suggests that we create new secular occasions with similar effects.
In a way, this has been started already by the embrace in the West of religious practices from the East. Yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, and so on, are all very popular among our mostly secular populations, because of their benefits to our well-being. But i feel that this cultural appropriation is not necessary. We have our own traditions and rituals, our own myths and mystics in the Christian tradition. Frankly I find it a bit naive to throw all of that away just because we've decided that god is dead. I mean: you don't need to be a Buddhist to enjoy yoga, right?
Alain de Botton actually suggests that art can replace religion to quite an extent. I agree. And I would say, especially the religious works of the Old Masters can have very beneficial effects. So I feel it's time to recuperate all the stuff in contemporary society.
We intend the first pieces to center around certain Christian themes that have inspired artists for centuries. Because that's the thing we've waited so long to deal with in our work. But we also have ideas for expanding the subject matter later: into mythology (we love Greek and Roman myths!), fairy tales (we've already explored Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Ridinghood), literature (Salome, Ophelia) and even some pop culture icons.
To be honest we are a bit tired of the modernism that has dominated art for over a century now. So indeed we tend to enjoy older art more. But we are people of today and we create now. We don't see Cathedral-in-the-Clouds as a nostalgic piece. We look at the past because we think it can inspire the present, and the future. And we will present every piece we create in a contemporary fashion. There is no need to replicate the masterpieces of the past (since they already exist). But we feel there is a great need for new art that reconnects us in a contemporary way with some of the universal sentiments addressed in the work of the Old Masters. Especially since new technology enables us, both creator and spectator, to explore this subject matter in entirely new ways.
As creators of interactive art, we've always been acutely aware of the body of the spectator. We see your body as an essential part of our work. It is your body that responds to the stimuli we present, and the work in turn responds to your physical presence (your body plus the environment you find yourself in). While Cathedral-in-the-Clouds is intended for contemplation, and might be used by some for purely spiritual meditation, we reserve a lot of room in our work for the sensual. Much like the Old Masters, we don't shy away from the depiction of nudity, touching or sexual metaphors. These are very human experiences that we wish to include in our work. And we feel that these bodily sensations are inextricably bound to our spiritual aspirations. It is exactly where the magic of art resides.
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