Tour the trippy world of virtual reality at National Gallery

Virtual reality has become an actuality at the National Gallery of Australia.

Virtual reality has become an actuality at the National Gallery of Australia. Photo: ABC

Visitors to the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) have been left with their mouths hanging open as new exhibit allows them to experience virtual reality.

Terminus has been billed as a five-part immersive experience that merges VR with art.

It is the first work of its kind acquired by the gallery and has come about through collaboration between two New Zealand artists, illustrator Jess Johnson and videographer Simon Ward.

Artists break down barriers of reality

Simon Ward and Jess Johnson distort the boundaries of traditional spaces. Photo: ABC

Johnson spent more than seven years drawing the imaginary world in two dimensions, with Ward turning the illustrations into three-dimensional art.

The installation then manages to take the spectator to yet another plane with the added dimension of virtual reality.

“It’s this idea that reality is malleable and you can find these wormholes or portals into different worlds,” Johnson said.

The whacky world of virtual reality

Terminus is a world of bizarre bodies and violently colourful imagery. Photo: ABC

The concept of wormholes has been used literally with bugs and body horror prominent throughout Terminus.

Johnson has embraced the VR medium but also expressed her fears of the dark places it could lead.

“It can reflect the best and the worst of humans,” she said.

Ward meanwhile has a lot of optimism about VR as a new genre for artists.

He said it was gratifying to see participants get so much out of adventuring through virtual worlds.

“There was an older couple who did the experience together … in the scary bits they held hands and it was really great seeing them go on this amazing journey.”

Unexpected works take centre stage

The VR installation is part of a series of works commissioned by the NGA and the Balnaves Foundation.

The provocative works have coloured the brutalist concrete building in a bid to break apart the expectations of visitors.

Traditional architecture receives a colourful treatment

Nikola Tesla Sends Theda Bara To Mars by Sarah Contos hangs in the foyer. Photo: ABC

“The Intervention series is about bringing contemporary art to the forefront of what the National Gallery is offering to its audience,” curator Jaklyn Babington said.

“This is work that you have probably never seen here before or expected to see here.”

Each installation goes against the tradition of simply being viewed by actively drawing spectators into the realm of the artwork.

Gallery challenges visitors’ expectations

Even from their first steps into the foyer, visitors experience a new atmosphere with Sarah Contos’s hanging installation.

The mobiles combine classic images from movies with the neon world of the 1980s to create a literal motion picture.

Black and white and neon all over

Lycra and lamé fuse with iconic images from film for one installation. Photo: ABC

“I’m creating a cinematic experience that works on an emotional level and a physical level,” she said.

The installation has raised a few eyebrows with regulars to the gallery.

Contos said visitors could not escape viewing the piece but would be rewarded with something different.

“They haven’t seen anything like this before.”

The installations will feature at the NGA until August 26.


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