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Art What!: ArtScience Museum to open permanent VR Gallery this July

Following their latest exhibition about videogames as art, ArtScience Museum is set to dive even further into the digital realm with the launch of their new permanent VR Gallery.

Opening on 10th July, the VR Gallery at Level 4 of ArtScience Museum celebrates curiosity, innovation and experimentation through virtual reality artworks. Equipped with state-of-the-art virtual reality (VR) headsets and controllers, the VR Gallery invites visitors to encounter unique immersive experiences from some of the world’s most renowned artists, museums and film festivals. Opening as part of ArtScience Museum’s 10th anniversary programme, the VR Gallery launches with a presentation of virtual reality artworks by three of the world’s best known contemporary artists – Olafur Eliasson, Marina Abramović and Anish Kapoor.

“At ArtScience Museum we believe that new technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality enable museums to create pioneering new experiences for audiences. Our new VR Gallery at Level 4 is one of the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, and will present a rolling programme of cutting-edge virtual reality works by artists, filmmakers and scientists,” said Honor Harger, Executive Director of ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands.

“Building on the success of our award-winning projects, Into the Wild and REWILD Our Planet, the new VR Gallery underscores ArtScience Museum as a destination for ground breaking immersive experiences.”

– Honor Harger, Executive Director of ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands.
(From left to right) Olafur Eliasson, Marina Abramović and Anish Kapoor. Courtesy of Acute Art

Headlining the launch of the VR Gallery is a programme called Hyperrealities, bringing visitors on an exhilarating journey into the brilliant minds of three artists who have consistently pushed the boundaries of contemporary art practice. Olafur Eliasson, Marina Abramović and Anish Kapoor explore topics such as nature, climate change and the human body in their first forays into virtual reality. Hyperrealities is presented in collaboration with Acute Art, an organisation that produces and exhibits compelling visual artworks that use virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality technologies.

Olafur Eliasson, still from Rainbow (2017). Courtesy of Acute Art

Art and science collide in the work of Olafur Eliasson, whose diverse practice includes dizzying installations and sculptures that explore perceptions of light and colour. In his first virtual reality artwork, Eliasson generates a digital version of a natural phenomenon which he has been fascinated with throughout his art career.

Titled Rainbow (2017), viewers enter an immersive environment and encounter a majestic curtain of falling water. They are invited to move through the water attempting to experience a rainbow. Just as a rainbow in nature only appears when light, water droplets, and the eye are in alignment, so Eliasson’s virtual rainbow can only be seen when the viewer’s movement produces a correlation between these three points. Its coloured light slips in and out of view, responding to the viewer’s body as well as handheld controls, which allow direct interaction with droplets as they descend. Rainbow is a delightful, multi-sensory treat which allows viewers to virtually drench themselves in falling showers, listen to the gentle trickle of water, and admire colourful prisms of light.

Marina Abramović, stills from Rising (2018). Courtesy of Acute Art

Performance art pioneer Marina Abramović presents Rising (2018), where she masterfully interconnects art with activism in a virtual reality artwork that communicates the terrifying effects of climate change on sea levels. Wearing a VR headset, viewers enter an intimate virtual space, where they come face-to-face with the artist, who beckons from within a glass tank that is slowly filling with water.

Marina Abramović, stills from Rising (2018). Courtesy of Acute Art

Visitors are invited to interact with Abramović, as the water level rises. Premiered at Art Basel Hong Kong in 2018, Rising urges viewers to reconsider their impact on the world around them, where seemingly simple decisions can mean life or death.

Anish Kapoor, stills from Into Yourself, Fall (2018). Courtesy of Anish Kapoor and Acute Art

Anish Kapoor is one of the most influential sculptors of his generation, and with Into Yourself, Fall (2018), his first VR artwork, he takes viewers on a journey through the human body, inviting the audience to experience the sensation of falling into oneself via a VR headset. Starting in a forest scene in a clearing surrounded by trees, viewers encounter a large black void in the ground. They then travel through a series of tunnels with walls that appear to be made of sinewy flesh and muscle.

Anish Kapoor, stills from Into Yourself, Fall (2018). Courtesy of Anish Kapoor and Acute Art

With a soundtrack created by the artist’s son, Ishan Kapoor, the artwork invites visitors to lose themselves in another realm. Into Yourself, Fall simulates the disorientating experience of vertigo during a celebration of the labyrinthian, majestic inner workings of the self. The artwork first premiered at Art Basel Hong Kong in 2018.

On 27th July 2021, Daniel Birnbaum, Artistic Director of Acute Art, will give an online presentation exploring the expanding role that virtual, augmented and mixed reality are playing in visual art. He will share the story of his collaborations with internationally renowned artists, such as Marina Abramović and Anish Kapoor, and discuss how Acute Art facilitated new works by artists who used immersive technologies for the first time. Birnbaum’s talk will be livestreamed on ArtScience Museum’s Facebook and YouTube channels at 8pm, as part of the talk series, Expanded Realities. The Expanded Realities talks feature internationally renowned artists, technologists and storytellers who are creating new artistic projects using VR and AR.

“Today’s immersive technologies, virtual reality and augmented reality, will change and expand the ways we experience art. I think the potential is great and that these tools will be essential to a new art world,” said Daniel Birnbaum, Artistic Director of Acute Art. “Will these technologies even change art itself, just like photographic techniques and mass distribution once altered our understanding of what an artwork can be?”

“There is no doubt to me that artists will continue to explore the perceptual and poetic possibilities of immersive spaces, and I am happy that ArtScience Museum in Singapore now presents the pioneering works we have produced with some of today’s most significant artists.”

– Daniel Birnbaum, Artistic Director of Acute Art

The ArtScience Museum VR Gallery opens from 10th July 2021. More information available here

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