Confirm, double confirm, and chop. You do not have to be a game connoisseur to enjoy the ArtScience Museum’s newest exhibition Virtual Realms: Videogames Transformed. Opening tomorrow (Saturday, 12 June 2021) this multi-sensorial, immersive exhibition makes its global premiere in Singapore.
It brings visitors through the proverbial fourth wall (or rather, screen), transporting them into six experiential realms conjured by the world’s leading video game developers in partnership with cutting-edge media artists.
Co-curated by celebrated game designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi with the Barbican in London, and co-produced with the ArtScience Museum and the Melbourne Museum, the exhibition sends a strong message about the interconnectedness of everything, and everyone.
“What’s also key is the collaboration between the creators of these experiences and their audience — for it is only through interaction and play that these artworks truly take form and become transformative,” says Patrick Moran (below), Co-curator and Acting Co-Head of Barbican International Enterprises.
Navigating Virtual Realms: Videogames Transformed
Each installation is based upon a theme, and all are helmed by an overarching longing for connection — a desire made ever more poignant by forced separation due to pandemic lockdowns over the past year and a half.
Hence, as with multi-player games, each installation works best as a multi-visitor experience. Alone, you can definitely enjoy it, but together, the experience becomes sublime. Unity, for instance, truly comes to life when there are three. For Narrative, five is an ideal minimum (so it’s good that group numbers will increase come Phase 3 HA on 14 June :).
With only six sections to explore, the exhibition is small. This means you can take your time to absorb each installation fully. Our recommendation? Go around again, and “replay” each one. Just as you uncover new meaning from a book with repeated reading, seeing an installation again un-peels previously unobserved layers.
Here, “game over” does not mean defeat. Rather it’s an opportunity to re-immerse yourself in the experience, and discover something different in it. It’s almost like finding an Easter egg in a game, really.
Virtual Realms: Videogames Transformed — the 6 Installations
By Enhance (game developer) and Rhizomatiks (media designer)
Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which senses can be simultaneously experienced by other senses. For example, some synesthetes ‘see’ sounds or taste in colour, or perceive time as shapes. In this installation visitors hold globes that vibrate with the beat of music, and connect them to the light-sound experience around them (see main image).
Together: the distance between (us), 2021
By thatgamecompany (game developer) and FIELD.IO (media designer)
The dreamlike world of Sky: Children of the Light (2019) is transformed into an immersive spatial environment here. A circular sculpture lights up as visitors move beneath it. Fragments of music coalesce when everyone comes together in the right place at the same time.
By KOJIMA PRODUCTIONS (game developer) and The Mill (media designer)
My child’s favourite. He spent 30 minutes in the Galactic section moving particles around — “Look mum, my hand is black hole”. There’s a Molecular section as well. Try both! As you approach the wall that separates both sections, watch how cells, and cosmic particles respond to your presence and movement. Can you see the beings on the other side?
Dream Shaping, 2021
By Media Molecule (game developer) and Marshmallow Laser Feast (media designer)
Prepare for a workout. Here you don a tracking helmet, pick up an oversized 3D soft-shape, and interact with three onscreen worlds. These will have you (i) learning how to play (ii) working together with your teammates, and (iii) competing against them. Get ready to move!
Book of Sand, 2021
By Tequila Works (game developer) and The Workers (media designer)
My favourite. This evocative exhibit envelopes visitors in the world of the game, RiME (2017), which is inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’s novella, Book of Sand. You become part of a constantly changing world-verse controlled by people stepping in and out of light circles on the ground. Best if there are at least five of you. You have to work together to progress to the next levels.
By David OReilly (game developer) and onedotzero (media designer)
Like travelling through an absurdist kaleidoscope, but with great music (from the London Symphony Orchestra). You and two other visitors rotate oversized controllers to change how the mandalas on the screen appear. Sit back, relax, and imagine that you are travelling through a wormhole, an asteroid field, the Big Bang, or your child’s swirly artwork. Look out for everyday objects (we saw batteries, and toilet paper rolls) hurtling across the space. Great fun!
Virtual Realms: Videogames Transformed runs from 12 June 2021 to 9 January 2022 at the ArtScience Museum before embarking on its global tour. Tickets are available at Marina Bay Sands Box Offices and website
Featured image: Marina Bay Sands