Speculative Cultures: A Virtual Reality Exhibition

Speculative Cultures: A Virtual Reality Exhibition opens February 7, 2019 – April 2019 at The New School’s Sheila C. Johnson Design Center . The exhibit is curated by Tina Sauerlaender (DE), Peggy Schoenegge (DE), and Erandy Vergara (MX/CA).

Cultures have never existed in a set state. They are all in constant flux brought about by social, economic, and technological developments. The global flow of people forges change, adaptation of norms and the creation of new forms for human societies, religions, rituals, or spoken languages. These processes of change lead to the adoption of new tools or practices and therefore can be considered as engine for progress, growth, and innovation.

The new tools of the digital age offer new possibilities for cultures to exist, evolve, and consolidate. Virtual Reality allows artists to speculate about new manifestations of cultural expressions within the conditions of the digital realm. Independent of physical surroundings, new spaces spring into existence.

The artists in this exhibition engage with their personal experiences, memories, and cultural heritage in order to reflect on today’s social coexistence. Morehshin Allahyari (IR/US) reflects on post-colonialism by exploring meanings of myths of Middle-Eastern origin. Scott Benesiinaabandan (CA) creates a futuristic setting based on a story of the indigenous Anishinabe peoples. Matias Brunacci (AR/DE) develops an interactive, technology-based shamanistic journey. Yu Hong(CN) refers back to Chinese history and her families’ life stories. Francois Knoetze (ZA) combines present and future, as well as representations and fictional visions of South Africa. Erin Ko (US) andJamie Martinez (CO/US) create a journey to the afterlife inspired by the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

Francois Knoetze, Virtual Frontiers, 2017, screenshot of VR artwork © the artist
Erin Ko & Jamie Martinez, Neo Kingdom, 2017, screenshot of VR artwork © the artists
Matias Brunacci, Virtualshamanism, 2018, screenshot of VR artwork © the artis

Through their works, the artists shape their hopes and desires into virtual environments representing imagined cultures. Their speculative virtual worlds create different perspectives on established narratives and traditions, as well as images and symbols. The artists’ projects thereby open possibilities for leaving accustomed views and familiar structures behind and exploring different notions of one’s own personal surroundings and conditions of human existence.

This show is part of the exhibition series Critical Approaches in Virtual Reality Art, which was developed by Erandy Vergara and Tina Sauerlaender at the invitation of the Goethe-Institut and Studio XX in Montréal. This series brings together Erandy Vergara’s engagement with postcolonial and feminist perspectives on media art and theory and Tina Sauerlaender’s curatorial engagement with digital technologies and Virtual Reality.

Presented in partnership with the Consulate General of Canada in New York.

Yu Hong, She is already gone, 2017, screenshot of VR artwork © Yu Hong and Khora Contemporary
Scott Benesiinaabandan, Blueberry Pie Under the Martian Sky, 2016, screenshot of VR artwork