Portals into Digital Worlds – Surfing on the «WEK» Planet

Can you find the cat hidden in the hill? Can you understand what the flowers in the forest are discussing? Who lives in the mushrooms that grow in the caves? In the water world, who is watching over the sparkling crown? Which couriers deliver food to the floating cloud village? Do you see the great rice cake planet in outer space? A guest article by Andrea Fortmann.

Together with the artist and art outreach worker Andrea Fortmann and the science fiction artist and prop maker Manuel Guldimann, children participating in the Vacation Pass workshop «Portals to Digital Worlds» conceived a planet and populated it.

The idea was for the children to jointly develop a narrative in which differing strands could occur concurrently. Instead of a heroic story, the new planet tells one of diverse creatures and their coexistence. The planet is divided into different areas, such as the sky zone or cave zone – each one adhering to its own concepts, but nevertheless able to communicate with neighboring zones. Paths, bridges, creatures, houses, and huts were constructed and converted into 3D portals using a 3D scanner. Layered PNGs form sprawling landscapes, while GIFs animate the environments. At the end of the course, the planet was named WEK – World of Electronic Arts, as suggested by the participating children.

Screen recording: «World of Electronic Arts».

Weaving a Network on a Planet in Three Days

The three-day workshop consisted of the inputting of both content and technical elements, work in pairs, and feedback discussions involving the entire class.

On the first day we brainstormed the planet’s basic concepts as a group. The children then worked in teams of two, focusing on a specific zone of the planet. They created a background for their landscape using the materials available on site and photographed it. On the second day, the background was inserted into the web-based, freely transformable «common garden», where it was then populated and further developed. The children used both analogue and digital tools, such as image editing programs, learning how to juxtapose differing elements to create an interactive landscape. Back in the classroom we discussed the different zones separately and in relation to the entire planet. What was missing from the ecosystem? How could homes be floating in the sky? – Oh, there’s a volcano in the hills blowing out hot air! In this way, new connections between the zones became suddenly apparent and could once again be translated into visual narratives.

On the final day, the children constructed a portkey out of plasticine which represented their zone. Using a 3D scanning program, the small sculptures were imaged, extracted from their original backgrounds and integrated as a video and hyperlink leading to their digital destination. Before the final presentation, the children thought about how they would like to present their zones. Some authored a caption, while others told the story from the perspective of the people who lived there, or enabled it to be explored freely.

Screenshot: cave zone of the «World of Electronic Arts».

The shared planet can be accessed here


Move from portal to portal and discover the various environments.
«sending coordinates— transmission_successful_bip bloop bliip bloop»


You can access the «common garden» by entering any username you wish. You appear in the world as a two-color egg. When you encounter another egg, a circle opens around you both and you are able to communicate with each other. Please treat your counterpart, who you may or may not already know, with curiosity and respect.

Screenshot: sky zone of the «World of Electronic Arts».

virtual.hek and Common Gardens

In fall 2022, HEK acquired its online exhibition space «virtual.hek», based on the «common garden», a platform created by artist Constant Dullaart. As part of the «Storytelling for the Digital Future» project, we wanted to use the space, and all its functions, as a tool to tell stories digitally. The idea of the digital planet, consisting of components made by the children together with readymade ones found on the internet, emerged from the platform. The workshop took place as part of the Basel Vacation Pass and Regio Vacation Pass program.

Tools, Programs (partly open-source or free test versions)

Digital extraction of images: https://www.photopea.com/

PNG archive (already extracted imagery): https://www.pngwing.com/de

GIFs (conversion of videos and­ individual images into digital flip books):
https://gif-erstellen.online-umwandeln.de/ (from PNGs) or https://www.unscreen.com/upload

Drawing: https://sketchpad.app/de/

3D scanning: https://scaniverse.com/

Further insights into the «World of Electronic Arts» created at the vacation pass workshop

Content input

From cats’ cradles, carrier bags, and collectors. More-than-human narratives for the future

Yasemin Dayioglu-Yücel, Wiebke von Bernstorff

PDF download https://undercurrentsforum.com/index.php/undercurrents/issue/view/16

The vacation workshop «Portals to Digital Worlds» took place from July 3–5, 2023 in collaboration with the Basel and Regio Vacation Pass program, and as part of the project «Storytelling for the Digital Future». The «Storytelling for the Digital Future» project was supported by the Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne and Binding Stiftung.