Leanne Hammacott, programming manager for the Cultural Institute, reflects on the current exhibition by visual artist Michael Takeo Magruder who spent a year-long residency (supported by the Leverhulme Trust) with the Department of Theology & Religious Studies, collaborating with an array of academics, designers, technicians and a curator to contextualise and produce the show.
When you enter the Inigo Rooms today, gone are the striking images of Beryl Bainbridge’s family and evocative re-creation of her London home; instead, for our current exhibition, De/coding the Apocalypse, you are greeted with an eerie whirring noise and an invitation to take an interactive, post-apocalyptic journey through the Book of Revelation.
Five rooms each play host to a different installation inviting the audience to reflect on and explore the ancient text in new ways using new technology – from computers and mobile devices to code systems, live data, 3D printing and virtual reality.
Playing the Apocalypse presents you with scenes of apocalyptic landscapes and recorded in-game footage from the sci-fi shooter Gears of War which seems to prompt a different reaction each time you look; in A New Jerusalem you can choose to wear the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and be transported into a three-dimensional metropolis where your physical and virtual movements blend and sway into one (we quickly realised we needed to provide a chair for those who discover motion sickness).
The Horse as Technology is housed in our largest space which has been transformed into a laboratory for digital production including 3D scanning and printing and motion-sensing technology enabling you to move, rotate and explore the displayed horse skull graphics without actually touching anything. Our team has become quite adept at firing up the 3D printer every morning and we have been rewarded with a new mini horse skull each day so quite a collection has been growing.
We’re interested in who this exhibition will bring in, particularly as it feels so different to what’s gone before. The cutting edge technology and inspirational content might just appeal to younger generations with an interest in art, technology or theology and we’ve been working with local schools to encourage them to come down. As Rev Dr Michael Banner in his ‘Thought for the Day’ on BBC Radio 4 last week mused, ‘The Book of Revelation is filled with plagues, strange beasts and noisy spiritual warfare – it’s about the closest you’ll get to car chase anywhere in the Bible’.
As larger galleries like the Tate are finding, technology is an increasingly important way to attract the whole family – demonstrated most recently when it teamed up with Minecraft’s best known mapmakers in Tate Worlds, an interactive exhibition which allows players to explore its collection and create their own experiences.
But 3D printing and virtual reality are just the beginning. Here at the Cultural Institute at King’s we are working with partners across the university and in the sector to explore how we might further enhance the audience experience – pooling academic research with sector know-how and understanding – so watch this space.
De/coding the Apocalypse runs until 19 December.