Known Unknown (VR still), 2018

It’s been an interesting few years for the arts. I know I say this in every one of these columns, but our industry is in a state of upheaval which is forcing us to reassess every part of how we create and consume art. 

One of the ways we have adapted in this pandemic is through a swift redirection to digital technology. At Toitoi, we are now regularly offering live-streaming of events, while producers and theatre-makers are experimenting with delivering their work online, or at least partially online. Livestreamed gigs have quickly become the norm for musicians and some visual artists have found themselves creating NFTs (non-fungible tokens) as a means of generating new income streams in a digital space.

Within the arts, we love opportunities to adapt to new ways of creating, so embracing technology throughout the pandemic has been no different. But just because more of us are blending art and technology now doesn’t mean there aren’t artists who’ve been doing it all along. And the perfect example of one such collaboration has just opened at Te Whare Toi o Heretaunga – Hastings City Art Gallery.

New York-based, Tauranga-born artist Jess Johnson has long collaborated with Hawke’s Bay-bred, Wellington-based video artist Simon Ward to turn her detailed, sci-fi inspired alternative realities into immersive digital experiences, be it video works or virtual reality. One of their most ambitious examples of this collaboration is Terminus – a mysterious universe of alien architecture populated by humanoid clones and cryptic symbols, traversed via a network of travellators and gateways, all experienced by you, the viewer, through five virtual reality experiences. 

The Holt Gallery has been completely transformed for this show, mixing real and virtual built environments seamlessly – so you really feel like you are inside the work in a way that is hard to describe without experiencing it. In fact, Jess herself said “I think VR is the most effective conduit from one brain to another that’s ever existed”. And who among us hasn’t wanted to see inside an artist’s brain at some point in time? I know I have!”

Simon and Jess developed this exhibition for the National Gallery of Australia, so it’s a thrill to have such a high-quality show here in Hastings for our community to experience and enjoy – especially as Simon grew up here, attending Lucknow School, then Havelock Intermediate and High School. We can’t wait for our local tamariki to be inspired by Simon and Jess’ work and realise for themselves that it is possible to grow up here in the Bay and go on to create game-changing, reality-defying arts experiences for the world to enjoy!

We have a large number of schools booked in to see the show, which is wonderful. But we want you to enjoy this show, too. That’s why we’re taking school groups through Terminus before 11am on Mondays through Thursdays – so you can pop in after 11am on those days, or anytime on the other days and experience Terminus for yourself. It’s also why it will be on until October 24, as it’s really important to us that everyone in our Heretaunga community has a chance to see and experience this mind-blowing work.

So, what are you waiting for? Come in and experience virtual reality for yourself. Terminus, by Jess Johnson & Simon Ward, is on from April 30 til October 24. Entry is free.

Photo: Supplied

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.