Home Arts Virtual reality meets fine art at Centre Phi

Virtual reality meets fine art at Centre Phi

by Shannon Roy November 26, 2019
Virtual reality meets fine art at Centre Phi

Cadavre exquis gives viewers the chance to explore the messages of modern artists

The entrance of Centre Phi is open and minimalist as you make your way to the ticket booth. Simplicity, high ceilings and white walls don’t surprise an avid art gallery visitor however, one must not let the simplistic interior fool you. This creative space is known for its eclectic programming and original content; it’s not your traditional art space. The mission statement declares Centre Phi as a creative hub for a range of artistic practices, not limited to art, cinema, music, design and technology.

What lies at the top of the stairs is an adventure that one would not have imagined to experience while gallery hopping on a typical Sunday afternoon. Marina Abramović, Olafur Eliasson, Laurie Anderson, Antony Gormley and Paul McCarthy, among others, have used virtual reality as a medium for expression in Cadavre exquis. Being completely immersed in the vision of six artists’ virtual reality creations has one’s mind spinning with curiosity from the moment the VR headset is put on you.

Marina Abramović’s creation was the first world that I stepped into. The visuals had me awestruck, and I found myself entirely immersed in the storyline of Rising.  Abramović standing before me, in all of her three-dimensional glory, begging for my help to change this planet’s climactic demise. Although a premise-based in a frightening reality, the graphics and sound effects were stunning.

The sound and movement involving waterfalls reflecting Eliasson’s Rainbow seemed out of a glorious dreamworld. Participants stayed moving amongst the dripping reflections longer than expected. The experience was meditative.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, McCarthy’s C.S.S.C. Coach Internship Stage Coach VR experiment Mary and Eve is a recipe for nightmares, although fascinating, bewildering ones. The shocking, confusing and profound message of this virtual reality experience is not for the faint of heart (or anyone under 16, for that matter). The piece is made up of 12 chapters, and you have the option to try all 12 – each nine-minute chapter becoming more confusing and difficult to withstand. I did not complete chapter 12.

Many of the other pieces were exciting and visually intriguing. Still, I struggled with the reality of the movements. Flying through space or making my (virtual) way through a dark chalk ridden abyss seemed to make my sensitive stomach turn. The reality of the experiences had me take the headset off early to avoid full-on motion sickness.

For anyone aching to try something new and extraordinary, experienced art-goers and less-inclined alike, this is an experience not to be missed. The aesthetics, concepts, technology and interactive nature of this show boast attractive draws for many.


Tickets can be purchased through the Centre Phi website until Jan. 19.

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