VR art exhibition on Speculative Species at Espronceda, Barcelona

SPECULATIVE SPECIES - VR Art in the Age of the Anthropocene

Artists: Bianca Kennedy & The Swan Collective (DE), Juan Le Parc (ARG/FR), Jakob Kudsk Steensen (DK/US), Lara Torrance (UK/US)

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Curators: Tina Sauerlaender & Peggy Schoenegge (DE) and Erandy Vergara (MX/CAN)

At: Espronceda, Center for Art & Culture, Carrer D'Espronceda 326 Nave 4,5 & 10
08027 Barcelona, Spain

Opening & Artist Talk & Panel Discussion: June 20, 2019, 7 pm

Duration: June 20 to 29, 2019

In the course of industrialisation, urbanisation and technolisation, human’s impact on the environment is increasing. The use and destruction of nature and its resources impairs the ecosystem, causing damage such as the hole in the ozone layer, climate change, the endangerment and extinction of various species. New procedures make it even possible to change DNA, which equally affects the whole system. All these human interventions inevitably affect global ecology and its creatures. Mankind has never been perceived as such an influencing factor for the environment. Today’s scientists and thinkers propose a new epoch, the Anthropocene, that describes and deals with the man-made changes, speaking from a geology of humankind.

Art as a mirror of current affairs also deals with these issues and uses new technologies such as VR. Using the possibilities of the virtual space as a room for experiments, artists reflect and speculate on characteristics and future developments of this new era of human interference with the environment and its creatures. They ask about the development of flora and fauna and how living conditions of different terrestrial species change. What kind of interrelation between humans and their environment will occur? The artists engage with the interconnections between humans and their fellow living creatures today and in speculative futuristic settings. This discussion/debate/speculative approach is transferred into the virtual space, in which the visitor immerses into.

Bianca Kennedy and The Swan Collective propose insects as alternative nutrition causing future genetic modifications. Juan Le Parc reveals an ancient temple built with meat products as a theatrical animal tragedy to discuss the duality of mass consumption and religious symbolism. With RE-ANIMATED Jakob Kudsk Steensen resurrects an extinct bird from recordings of its mating call in a world inhabited by algorithmically grown digital plants. Lara Torrance draws attention to endangered species in New England by placing their glassy versions into the virtual space.

Invited by the Goethe-Institut and Studio XX in Montréal, Erandy Vergara and Tina Sauerlaender developed the concept of their exhibition series Critical Approaches in Virtual Reality Art where this exhibition is part of. This series combines the passion and expertise of two curators: Erandy Vergara's engagement with postcolonial and feminist perspectives on media art and theory (Mexico/Montreal) and Tina Sauerlaender's curatorial engagement with digital technologies and Virtual Reality (Berlin). Together with peer to space’s curator Peggy Schoenegge, they curate the exhibition SPECULATIVE SPECIES.

Image: Jakob Kudsk Steensen, Re-Animated, 2018, screenshot of VR experience © the artist

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SPECULATIVE CULTURES - A Virtual Reality Exhibition

Matias Brunacci, Virtualshamanism, VR experience, 2018

Matias Brunacci, Virtualshamanism, VR experience, 2018

Artists:  Morehshin Allahyari (IRN/US), Scott Benesiinaabandan (CAN), Matias Brunacci (ARG/DE), Yu Hong (CHN), Francois Knoetze (ZAF), Erin Ko (US) & Jamie Martinez (COL/US)
Curators: Tina Sauerlaender & Peggy Schoenegge (DE), and Erandy Vergara (MX/CA)
At: Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Parsons School of Design at The New School , 2 West 13th St, Ground Floor, New York, USA
Opening: February 7, 2019, 6- 8 pm
Artists' Tour: February 8, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Duration: February 7, 2019 - April 14, 2019.

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. 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.

peer to space at DIGIFEST in Toronto

Install view: Li Alin, Enter Me Tonight, House of Electronic Arts Basel, 2017 / Photo by Franz Wamhof

Install view: Li Alin, Enter Me Tonight, House of Electronic Arts Basel, 2017 / Photo by Franz Wamhof

VR projects at Digifest:

H.E.A.R.T. by Erin Gee and Alex M. Lee
Enter Me Tonight by Li Alin

Presented by the Goethe-Institut Toronto
Curated by Tina Sauerländer (Berlin) and Erandy Vergara (Montreal)

At the invitation of the Goethe-Institut curators Tina Sauerländer and Erandy Vergara have selected VR works for this year’s Toronto Digifest, including two recent pieces by Berlin-based Canadian artist Li Alin and Montreal-based artist Erin Gee in collaboration with South Korean-born, US-based artist Alex M. Lee. The artists use humor and irony to engage in controversial topics: emotions in first-person shooter video games and war in the case of Gee, and a futuristic exploration on human reproduction in technology-oriented times in the case of Alin.

Further information here / Tina Sauerlaender on the Goethe Blog.

Critical Conversation on Virtual Reality in Canada

Critical Approaches to Virtual Reality: A Conversation about the Present, Past and Future of VR

Presenters: Tina Sauerländer, Erandy Vergara, Paloma Dawkins, Tali Goldstein and Ruben Farrus (Casa Rara)

May 24th, 5pm to 7pm

Milieux Institute at Concordia University

Recent art projects and discussions about VR seem mostly awestruck by the possibilities of the technologies themselves. However, there are critical and historical perspectives that we must address in order to investigate issues of aesthetics, politics, and the conceptual aspects of VR artworks and games. This conversation will include questions such as: How can artists and collectives working with Virtual Reality today challenge mainstream uses of this technology? What can we learn from the pioneers of VR and the criticism that media theorists asked regarding early celebratory discourses? Where are we in regards to issues of embodiment/disembodiment? What about feminist and postcolonial critiques of VR?

Studio XX sincerely thanks the Goethe-Institut and the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology at Concordia University for their support as partners of this event.

Image: Exhibition view THE UNFRAMED WORLD at HeK Basel, artwork: Banz & Bowinkel, Mercury, 2016 (Installation view, VR experience) / Photo by Franz Wamhof