City Illusion

"City Illusion" is a contemplation on the connection between urban city structures and nature. It is a dreamland where the boundaries between birds and humans in the city gradually blur. On a tour bus, the chirping of birds overtakes the voice of the guide, as they soar towards the reflections on the glass windows of tall buildings and then plummet to the ground. Each collision yields slightly different scenery, as if seeking novelty amidst infinite repetition.

This artwork draws inspiration from birds that are deceived by the reflections in city skyscraper windows. During the day, birds may collide with windows because they see reflections of vegetation or potted plants on the other side of the glass. At night, migratory birds (including most songbirds) may crash into brightly lit windows during their nocturnal journeys.

"City Illusion" is a real-time rendered video that I created using the Unity game engine. This artwork explores the possibilities of narrative through programming. In "City Illusion," from a technical standpoint, I pondered the characteristics of technology as a medium. For instance, in my work, I used Unity and programming to establish a closed-loop system where limited cause and effect cycles form a microcosm of the real world. This virtual reality, to some extent, reflects my own understanding and construction of the world because these causal relationships are abstractions based on my experiences. While the tour bus routes and bird flight paths in the artwork are completely random, I have a firm grasp on the core of the work (the programming logic) within the virtual world. This sense of certainty in the technology makes me feel incredulous. If I were to be the god of the virtual world, whimsically establishing a rule, how can I convince myself that this real world isn't a joke from a higher-dimensional being?

  • Jiayi Liu
  • Project Type:
    Animation, Experimental, Student, Web / New Media
  • Completion Date:
    May 25, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    10 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
    Yes - School of the Institute of Chicago
Director - Jiayi Liu