My art practice is human interest storytelling combining mixed reality with more traditional art installations using sculpture, video, and binaural audio.
My MA Show art installation ‘The Refugees’ Crisis’ exhibited at UAL in July 2016, tells the true story of refugees fleeing to Europe by boat from Tunisia to Lampedusa which sank, the tragic result of which was discovered by a couple and a few of their friends when sailing on their own small craft – “I have never seen so many in the water”, “We cannot save them all”. This built on the experience of ‘Metamorphosis’, this time using the Veronica Scanner during an RA exhibition at Waddesdon Manor, to make a very detailed life-size 3D print of an actress in the role of Teresa, one of the rescuers. This contrasted with a haunting scan of an actor as a refugee, low morphed, so features were not clear, representing many of those in the sea, not just one person. These sculptures were mounted on clear plinths surrounded by a projected backdrop of the moving sea against the walls and floor, so that the figures appeared to be in the water. Visitors were invited to stand between them. A three-minute binaural recording of the characters’ narrative relating their experience of the same instance when the rescuer and the refugee first saw each other across the water, could be heard through headphones. Three huge holographic copies of the refugee sculpture could be seen against the physical art installation in the exhibition space, along with the binaural recording, using the Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headset. The visitor could walk around these sculptures as though they were physically present. Many visitors cried including the author of ‘The Optician of Lampedusa’, Emma Jane Kirby, whose book was the inspiration for my work. Penguin donated many copies for visitors to take for an on-line donation to the Oxfam charity supporting refugees. The exhibit was well promoted by the University, which led to the BBC visiting and recording a radio documentary about it for iPM. The Vice Chancellor of UAL, Nigel Carrington bought smaller 3D printed replicas of rescuer and refugee, which are now on display in his office. On 26 February 2018, I will be presenting and exhibiting this installation again at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford University.
For the binaural effect please listen to the audio below using headphones.
There were many experimental steps along the way: A half size sculpture of Vanessa in pose, made of 250 laser cut slices of MDF; a touch narrative painting ‘Unrequited Love’ which held a conversation with the viewer as he/she touched different parts of the canvas. The viewer is the object of affection of the woman in the painting – “Why did you ignore me today”; large canvases of the 3D scans of Vanessa, morphed as a harlequin or as an intricate mesh which is projected and rotated.
My MA Display exhibit, ‘Metamorphosis’ builds upon my ‘Digital to Physical’ practice. I used 3D scanning, photogrammetry and 3D printing processes developed by Factum Arte, part of the Factum Foundation, which reconstructed demolished heritage such as the Arch at Palmyra destroyed by ISIS. With my own hand held scanner and the SLS 3D printer at Central Saint Martins I produced a one-third size scale sculpture of Vanessa Abreu, a life model I had previously drawn. I then used the 3D printed sculpture to make the mold from which I cast her upper body in bronze, leaving it with runners and riders exposed and unpolished to represent the stress experienced when she damaged her knee during a contemporary dance performance at Sadler’s Wells. The full body 3D print in smooth sandstone, in contrast represented her metamorphosis into a successful life model at the Royal Drawing School. I recorded Vanessa’s story in her own voice, and parts of her narrative are played randomly when the book ‘Metamorphosis’, displayed with both sculptures, is touched by a viewer – “I did not know whether I would ever dance again”. There is no evidence of the technology, and the book can be lifted off the plinth it rests on, with no wires attached. My aim is to gain an empathic response from the audience from the visual and audio cues alone, without intrusive evidence of the technology employed.
In April 2017, I took part in a demonstration to V&A academics of my exhibit Making the absent object present. Wearing a Microsoft HoloLens headset, participants walked around a hologram of my 3D sculpture, displayed in exactly the same place as the removed original (also shown at Tate Exchange: Tate Modern, Kingston University and The Museum of Futures, London).
Earlier this year I demonstrated and helped visitors experience these technologies, including Tilt Brush Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality, at Chelsea College of Arts, Camberwell College of Arts, and at several sessions of Tate Exchange at Tate Modern.