Geometric patterns, humanoid bodies, alien architectural environments and relics of an ancient world appear throughout Terminus – an immersive, virtual reality installation by Jess Johnson and Simon Ward, on now at The Dowse Art Museum.
Terminus consists of a series of five separate virtual reality experiences housed within bespoke structures with surrounding video projections, situated on a full-scale tessellated floor map. Explored via a network of travellators and gateways, Terminus presents a quest, a choose-your-own adventure, inside a technological world.
“It’s an out of this world experience that melds immersive interactive technologies with contemporary art. Jess Johnson and Simon Ward have created something truly exceptional that I know will leave many of our visitors in awe,” says Karl Chitham, Director of The Dowse.
With their pioneering use of virtual reality (VR), Johnson and Ward are unique among their contemporary art practitioners. Johnson’s drawings are transformed from analogue two-dimensional artwork into an immersive digital realm, and from solo practice into cross-disciplinary collaboration. Animated by Ward and enriched with input from developer Kenny Smith and sound composer Andrew Clarke, the result is Terminus.
Commissioned by the National Gallery of Australia with support provided by The Balnaves Foundation, Terminus has been re-designed specifically for The Dowse. “It is an immersive experience as soon as you enter the gallery space. It offers both physical and virtual encounters through works on paper, quilts, digital animations, and of course the technology itself.” continues Chitham.
“In the hands of artists, virtual reality technology has the potential to explode into new genres and art forms. As an artist working in VR, I’m really excited by the psychological implications of being able to position an audience directly within my artwork,” comments Johnson.
Ward, whose practice is based in Wellington, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, says, “It is fantastic to be able to show Terminus so close to home in Wellington, where most of it was made, and to celebrate with the small local crew that help make Jess and my collaborative works.”
Terminus is toured in Aotearoa by Tauranga Art Gallery and opens at The Dowse on Saturday 14 November, and is on until 21 March 2021.
It opens alongside another exhibition at The Dowse: Reuben Paterson’s Black Matter, where the firework takes on new significance in this series of works by the Auckland-based artist Paterson (Ngāti Rangitihi, Ngāi Tūhoe, Tūhourangi). Paterson’s signature glitter canvasses feature cascades in skin-toned shades including the black backgrounds that reference dark matter and Te Kore, a Māori concept used to describe a time and space before light entered the world.
They join five exhibitions on at The Dowse over summer – From the Ground Up: Community, Cultivation and Commensality, Angela Singer: Second Sight, Veranoa Hetet: Creating Potential, Josephine Cachemaille: This Way That Way and Lost Heads & Hobgoblins: The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things Pop-Up. Spanning contemporary art installations, craft, Maori weaving, painting and sculpture, there’s something to see for every art lover.