Sheffield's Universal Everything and Human Studio have joined forces to create The Centre for Impossible Media, which – to you and I – is a VR exhibition platform that allows artists to showcase their work in tailored virtual worlds.
The project has been on the cards for a while but this year's pandemic, along with wider access to VR technology, namely the Oculus Quest 2 headset, meant the two studios were finally motivated to find alternatives to real-world spaces for video art.
"There was nothing that existed that suited what we needed in VR," says Universal Everything's founder Matt Pyke. "There are plenty of traditional virtual galleries but they show static artworks and we needed to display moving image. People want more than white room galleries in VR with flat pictures on the wall. So we've developed the ability to wrap streaming video onto surfaces in VR spaces."
The studios have made seven different environments for their new platform, which amplifies the work and pulls it into the environment. "The ultimate museum is a good way of thinking about it," adds Matt. "The idea is that it's definitely beyond the limits of the real world. This could be of a colossal scale or have zero gravity, a lot more freedom."
"I think they help extend the creative vision that people have," says Human Studio's Nick Bax (formerly The Designers Republic). "Usually you're constrained by the venue but with this, it's the other way round, even the way the gravity might work could be affected."
The Centre for Impossible Media's first exhibition is 'UE VR: Beyond Human' – a retrospective of Universal Everything's artworks, exhibited in VR for the first time. It features the studio's Communion, which was made in 2011 as a 360 projection in the real world at Paris's La Gaîté Lyrique, but is now housed in an impossibly tall cathedral-like space with video art running hundreds of metres above and below a viewer's head.
Elsewhere, there's Superconsumers, originally made for a 30-metre-high department store facade, which now takes up residence in a VR fashion boutique. Another installation, Supreme Believers, synchronises characters being blown into dust with the sense of a virtual hurricane around the viewer. "It's like a process of osmosis where the art seeps into the environment," says Nick. "We escape the rectangle and draw out elements from the film content into the virtual environment."
Matt adds: "It will grow to allow artists, designers and producers from the film, fashion, art and music worlds to extend their creative vision and construct the ultimate home for their work. There's the potential to live-stream fashion shows, immerse fans in a band's music video, or wrap video around surfaces, objects and even the viewer's hand.
"The platform may also enable people to seek out meditative solo art experiences, without the crowds of a physical gallery or museum space."
Universal Everything and Human Studio are now inviting artists to get in touch to explore collaborations that will bring their ideas to life in The Centre for Impossible Media. Discover more at universaleverything.com.