Antony Gormley and Dr. Priyamvada Natarajan’s first virtual reality collaboration, Lunatick (2019), uses data collected by NASA to map a real and interactive journey, leaving Earth to pass through atmosphere, stratosphere, the asteroid belt, and into outer space. This immersive experience treats the body as a vessel, free from gravity, in order to bring the haptic experience of space alive.
Wearing an immersive headset, viewers begin their journey on the deserted island of Kiritimati (Christmas Island) in the Pacific Ocean – an island which, due to rising sea levels, is in danger of disappearing. After discovering a launch pad in amongst a cluster of palm trees, the user’s body falls upwards through the clouds and into outer space.
The user will then explore the intricate landscape of the cosmos by circumnavigating the globe and catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights, before arriving on the Moon. Users are invited to explore its vast surface and gravitational force, as only twelve men previously have done.
From the moon, the viewer is thrown further into space, past the shimmering surface of the Milky Way, towards the heart of the solar system – the Sun – where they are eventually met by a blinding white light, marking the end of the piece.
To produce the artwork, Acute Art used multi-scale modelling to recreate tiny elements such as flowers and colossal objects like the Sun. One of the most significant challenges was to create an optical sensation of the real size of an object, within the infinite scale of the cosmos.
By exploring the cosmic realities at the heart of Dr Natarajan’s research, Gormley was able to take his lifelong investigation of the-body-in-space into another dimension. On VR, Gormley explains, ‘[it] is the latest tool to extend our consciousness imaginatively beyond the limits of our bounding condition and realise our cosmic identity.’
On the project, Dr Natarajan states, ‘I have always wanted to share the magic and majesty of the universe in a more intimate experiential way and this project Lunatick (2019) with Antony Gormley and Acute Art provided an exciting opportunity for just such a unique voyage of exploration.’
About Antony Gormley
Antony Gormley was born in London in 1950. He is widely acclaimed for his sculptures, installations and public artworks that investigate the relationship of the human body to space. His work has developed the potential opened up by sculpture since the 1960s through a critical engagement with both his own body and those of others in a way that confronts fundamental questions of where human beings stand in relation to nature and the Cosmos. His most famous public works include ‘Angel of the North’ (Gateshead, England), a twenty meter tall sculpture made from stainless steel, with a wingspan measuring 54 meters across, and ‘Another Place’ (Crosby Beach, England) which consists of 100 iron figures, modelled on the artist’s own naked body, facing towards the sea.
Gormley was awarded the Turner Prize in 1994 and was made an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in 1997. In 2014 he was made a knight in the New Year’s Honours list. His work has been widely exhibited throughout the UK and internationally with exhibitions at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge (2018); the Long Museum, Shanghai (2017); National Portrait Gallery, London (2016); Forte di Belvedere, Florence (2015) and Zentrum Paul Klee, USA). In September 2019, a major solo exhibition of his work will be presented at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Gormley lives and works in London.
About Dr Priyamvada Natarajan
Dr Priyamvada Natarajan, is an Indian-American astrophysicist and Professor in the Departments of Astronomy and Physics at Yale University. She is recognized for her key contributions to two of the most challenging problems in cosmology: mapping dark matter and tracing the accretion history of black holes. Her work using gravitational lensing techniques to map the granularity of dark matter that has provided important new insights into its elusive nature. She has pioneered the development of models that describe the formation, assembly and growth history of black holes that have a provided a deeper understanding of these enigmatic objects. An inter-disciplinary scholar, she is intellectually interested in the history & philosophy of science and is deeply invested in the public understanding of science.
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