Michael Scroggins

A Topological Slide, 1994

Mathematicians often describe the nature of certain topological surfaces by describing what it would be like to "take a walk" on the surface. “A Topological Slide” uses immersive virtual reality technology to provide this type of direct sensual experience.  "The 'rider' will wear a head mounted display enabling an interactive wide-angle stereo view of a three-dimensional space.  The space will consist of a model of a topological surface to which the platform is bound and upon which it is free to slide.  The 'rider' may traverse the model's surface by leaning in the direction in which she desires to move.  The amount of lean in a given direction will determine the rate of sliding." The quote above is taken from the original grant proposal for “A Topological Slide” submitted by Michael Scroggins and Stewart Dickson to the “Art and Virtual Environments Project” at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 1991. “A Topological Slide” premiered at the “Art and Virtual Environments Symposium” held in conjunction with the “Fourth International Conference on Cyberspace” at the Banff Centre in 1994.


VR experience for SGI Onyx with a Polhemus tracked Virtual Research Flight Helmet HMD.


The interactive VR version of A Topological Slide no longer exists. Surviving documentation includes video, digital images, illustrations, and working papers.




Michael Scroggins received his MFA from CalArts where he has been a member of the faculty since 1978. His work in absolute animation extends a cinematic tradition that began in the early 20th Century with the work of visionary artists such as Oskar Fischinger, Viking Eggeling, and Walther Ruttman.  Like those pioneers, Scroggins aspires to the creation of a visual experience that resembles musical experience in its ability to achieve affect purely through the architectonic structuring of basic elements such as shape, color, texture, and rhythm. His absolute video works have been widely screened internationally, including exhibitions at the Centre George Pompidou, Paris; Union of Filmmakers, Moscow; Seibu Ginza, Tokyo; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles. 


He has long been active in the field of Virtual Reality, and in 1992 received a grant from the Banff Centre for the Arts to produce, “A Topological Slide”, which premiered in 1994 at The Fourth International Conference on Cyberspace.  His ongoing research into the potential of gesture capture in creating realtime absolute animation in VR has led to the development of the visual instrument, “Anaphorium”, which is scheduled for release on the HTC Vive platform in 2019.

If you are interested in exhibiting or viewing this artistic VR experience, please send an email to us.