Finnish artist Henrik Gullmets studied cinematography in school but, even before graduation in 2016, he started experimenting with 3D and quickly became interested in alternate realities and creating environments and films that were more sci-fi than real life. Like his senior thesis, an interactive film centered around a 3D model of an apartment in Helsinki that he made by taking a ton of photographs and converting them into a life-size dollhouse that allowed viewers to see what people were doing inside. “It was the first time I really got into Cinema 4D and I just locked myself in a room and made the thing,” he recalls.
These days, Gullmets runs his own 3D production company, RYMDFISK, and he’s also experimenting with 3D reconstruction techniques at Aalto University’s Research Institute of Modeling and Measuring for the Built Environment, known as MeMo. As an artist, Gullmets’ part-time role at the institute is unique since his colleagues are primarily scientists and researchers in the fields of civil engineering and GEO informatics who use 3D measurement techniques like photogrammetry and laser scanning in their work.
With MeMo’s support, Gullmets uses the institute’s 3D reconstruction techniques to create 3D art concepts, including an elaborate augmented reality exhibition that depicted the fictional future of Närpes, a small rural town on the east coast of Finland. (Read more about the project in Gullmets’ making-of blog post)
“MeMo’s main focus is practical application and I worried that they would think my work was unnecessary,” he explains. “But they see the potential for these models to be used for artistic purposes, but also for research. Right now, I see these things in only my relatively sane head. But I think they also see what I’m doing as a challenge to come up with different solutions for 3D measuring techniques.”
For Gullmets, 3D is a perfect tool for telling stories. And his latest abstract tale, Weight of the World, was also a collaboration with MeMo. Offering a surreal glimpse of weightlessness, the interactive 3D model was made using Cinema 4D and Sketchfab and shows a woman who was out walking her dog when she suddenly became weightless. Navigating around the scene, viewers see the woman floating, one arm overhead, her winter hat and one boot drifting off into space. Pan around some more and there’s her little white dog looking perplexed in its harness and coat.
Who knows what caused gravity to give out. But look closely and the spilled contents of the woman’s backpack reveal notes she made about how she sometimes fantasizes about being weightless. Like we all do, in a way, Gullmets says: “We all have our problems. I’m pretty much super stressed out all of the time, so this is really an abstract visualization of the feeling you get when all of your stress, and things that hold you down in life, get lifted off your shoulders.”
While he uses Cinema 4D as his main 3D tool, Gullmets likes the way Sketchfab makes it easy to share his artwork in an interactive way that’s different from VR and AR. In many ways, he says, his 3D narratives unfold in a similar way as video games. “A lot of video games have incredible stories and really interesting ways of moving those stories forward,” he explains. “I don’t think of Weight of the World like a game, but it is interactive, and I think it will very soon be possible to make something 3D with that kind of interactivity that will come right into your Instagram and Facebook feeds. I’m definitely intrigued by that idea."
Meleah Maynard is a writer and editor in Minneapolis, Minnesota.