V-Topia: Visions of a Virtual World, Glasgow, Liverpool & Birmingham
V-topia was a touring show curated by Steven Bode, Charles Esche and Eddie Berg with new work and re-staged commissions by Grahame Weinbrien, Clive Gillman, John and Paul Butler, Richard Land, Susan Collins, Lynn Hershman, Graham Ellard and Stephen Johnstone. The exhibition premiered at Tramway, Glasgow in 1994 before moving on to the Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool and the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham. The show presented work by artists who were exploring new technologies and examining the possibilities and problematics that the newly emerging 'virtual world' opened up. The choice of art venues was an explicit attempt to bring digital work to a mainstream visual arts audience. The exhibition received a great deal of attention but this was mainly from critics who were interested in the emerging themes of cyber culture from a social perspective and it is arguable that the same divide between the digital arts and the gallery system that the show highlighted still exists in the 21st century. The curators chose artists whose practice dealt with concepts beyond technology as an end point in itself and works were presented as rich, experiential installations, social spaces rather than solitary and simplistic interfaces. Key works include Susan Collin's audio installation AudioZone which played on both the gallery visitor's senses and their psycho-somatic desire to be seduced by an illusionary world; Clive Gillman's immersive interactive computer-based installation To be this good…Rock of ages which positioned the simplistic dynamics of arcade games against a more complex and non-linear virtual maze of poetry; and the Butler Brother's four screen video and computer generated installation Dream of Freedom, a touch screen work which satirised the promise of 'freedom' offered by the interactive cyber world of the future. The show can be seen as a prescient attempt to explore the tensions between the private and the public, the real and the virtual that would be accentuated as the Internet developed rapidly over the last half of the decade.
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