Virtually Real: Art and Technology at the Norman Rea Gallery

Virtually Real runs at the Norman Rea Gallery 27th January – 10th February 2020.

This post includes notes on the bustling opening night as well as specific works within the exhibition, with contributions from two of our blog team members.

The Opening Night

Written by Rebecca Rice-Thomas

‘The ‘Virtually Real’ exhibition invites us to explore the digital nature of art in the modern day, as well as question the impact of modern technology on our experience of art. The exhibition opening, held on the 27th January, combined art, music and interactive activities, including VR demonstrations, resulting in an more informal yet engaging experience.

The exhibition began with a set from Big Music, whose fusion of alternative electronic music and unusual visuals captured the audience’s attention. This was followed by a set of hip-hop, adding to the upbeat atmosphere of the evening.’

The Exhibition

Written by Nicole Fairey

'It would be all too easy for an art exhibition dealing with the relationships between art, technology, and ourselves to criticise and indulge in the predicting of the end of human connection and culture; Virtually Real in contrast is playful and cheeky. This exhibition encourages viewers to reflect in a purely curious manner the role of art in an expanding digital society.

It is also a credit to the curatorial team that the intimidation of having to enter with prior knowledge of digital culture is stripped for the audience. Littered amongst the space are multi-coloured post-it notes of comments and musings from viewers that have come before. Whether insightful, pessimistic, goofy, or abstract these messages reinforce the relaxed atmosphere of open reflection. Room is given here for patrons to enjoy the art on a superficial level if so desired.

For those seeking to view the art deeper Isabella Abelman is an artist whose works in this exhibition contemplate the development of digital communities and the aesthetic of connection. In her image series Beauty Queens Have Bad Days Too a young woman is captured in a state of primping while also devouring a burger; large retro curlers dangling from her locks and her mouth full of junk food. It is the included captions that frame these images in the context of digital influencer culture. Akin to behind the scenes expose shots these images peek behind the façade many of us hide behind on social media and challenge viewers to reflect on their own digital self-images.

Similarly, works by James Moore such as Elbe Sandstone Mountains, after Friedrich present familiar images through a digital lens. Viewers familiar with landscape paintings can recognise the reference to Wanderer Above the Sea of Mist, yet the fractured presentation of the scene by Moore is jarring on many levels. It is a classic scene disjointed and while initially familiar it is through the lens of a VR format the viewers are challenged to reconsider their relationship to the material world in light of the current digital age.'

I'd like to extend a huge thank you to both our writers for their contributions towards this post, as well as to everyone who has attended the exhibition and made our opening night one of the most popular yet.

Photos by:

Morgan Simpson

Joseph Pike

Liuka Jonynaite

Interested in writing for our blog? Email for more information.

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