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The history of visual art as object is inseparable from the space it occupies. That space may be ritual, magical, religious, anthropological as in a cabinet of curiosities, domestic and decorative, a public gallery, or a vault as investment.

Art is an object of exchange whose context increases or decreases its value. An object in a public gallery is viewed differently from an object in a shed (unless it is the shed) in much the same way as a skull displayed as a relic in a church is different from one in a normal grave. Churches and museums consecrate space and invite a different, more devout form of attention. They themselves make art.

The Turbine Hall at Tate Modern was an industrial space but is now just such a consecrated space. The space itself is a vital part of the context. But what if the space can be recreated in virtual reality and reoccupied as, in this case, by adaptation of themes from Goya in a visually dense and aggressive assault on the senses, or indeed by any other possible experiential phenomenon? What if the roof of the Tate were to fly away or collapse?

That is the kind of possibility the Appropriation Project looks to explore. Collaborating with various artists and institutions, London-based design studio Mbryonic creates a series of virtual experiences set in unique spaces. The first of them, entitled ‘The Sleep of Reason Still Produces Monsters’, was created in collaboration with visual artist Xavi Sole and is inspired by three works by Goya: The Hill of San Isidro, The Pilgrimage of San Isidro, and The Great He-Goat. The resulting piece presents the audience with the evolution of a scene, of joyful celebration into a pilgrimage of sinister characters on their way to the hermitage under the gaze of a demonic Idol.

Like photography and cinema, VR began as science but was quickly commercialised into novelty – a stand-alone ‘experience’ – and has developed ever more practical functions in other applied projects. But VR is not merely an instrument: it is itself and in that way is a form with which art is properly concerned.

The VR ‘experience’ remains what it would be in isolation but may also be experienced as one that partakes of the consecration enjoyed by the museum. Indeed it is not impossible that viewers entering the Turbine Hall might be offered a VR version of the same so that they can move between two parallel spaces.

The prospect is exciting. Doors are opening. VR is here to stay in the same way as photography, movies and cyber space are here to stay. But it’s the next step. The new door.

Exhibitions and Shows

We previewed the art at UAL this July and captured some of the audiences reactions in this video:

We are currently organising tours for this installation during 2017. Please get in touch for details.

About the Creators

Xavier Sole is a visual artist whose latest work is highly inspired by Goya. His practice is focused on the study of playfulness and its relation with satire and technology. Through nasty interactions, Xavier Sole invites the audience to engage with dark pleasures in cathartic, humoristic experiences.

Mbryonic is a design studio run by Tom Szirtes and Xander Adderley. Mbryonic’s interest is connecting artists and audiences in new engaging ways through virtual and augmented realities. Veil, an earlier VR collaboration with Iain Nicholls debuted at the Barbican and was listed for a Lumen Prize. Tom Szirtes and Xavier Sole met at Fish Island Labs, the digital art incubator programme run by Barbican and The Trampery.

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