Blog: Object Memory immersive exhibition

Phoenix's digital art manager Irina Tsokova gives us an overview of our current exhibition, Object Memory.

Object Memory

By Irina Tsokova, Phoenix Digital Art Manager

Object Memory is a group exhibition by five emerging artists, based in Leicestershire. The artists are part of the REAL Initiative programme, which is funded by Phoenix, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Midlands Engine and Arts Council England. As part of the REAL Initiative programme they have worked with Leicester-based immersive media company Metro Boulot Dodo, who have provided support and training to each of the artists.

The exhibited works draw on the ways particular locations are remembered and represented using creative technologies. For those of you who haven’t yet seen the exhibition (or are unable to) we hope this blog will explain each of the artists’ installations, and give you an insight into the challenges and benefits of working with digital art.

The pieces in the exhibition are diverse but are connected by each artist’s desire to explore their specialist area – such as identity politics, disability rights, heritage and migration – through the use of immersive digital technology to engage with artistic concepts.

Click here for audio version (introduction)

Khush Kali: 1999

Beginning with Khush Kali’s piece, 1999, I was surprised to find that people enjoyed the display without necessarily understanding that all the photos that are featured are pictures of people who don’t exist. Khush has used a technique called artificial intelligence (AI) generation, and its use has grown significantly since last year’s public unveiling of Dalle-2 – an AI generation platform.

For 1999, Khush drew on her previous work looking at night clubs and generated this amazing collection of photos that show people who don’t really exist. This has presented a big challenge as AI struggles with creating people’s faces and hands, due to datasets (collections of artefacts such as paintings and photos) that are either scarce or inaccurate.

Click here for audio version (Khush Kali)

Ben Fredericks [Collaborations]: The Diary

Ben Fredericks’ The Diary is primarily based on analogue technology, such as the cassette player and other ephemera Ben has included in the set design.

Despite the interactive nature of the piece, we have noticed that some visitors are afraid to touch it – and our general advice is definitely do touch things. The work is not behind a screen or displayed inside a case, so please approach it, put the headphones on and immerse yourself in a fictional story of two migrants in a retro-futuristic world.

We are currently working with hearing and deaf BSL professionals to add BSL screens in our gallery, but this is a complex process as there aren’t many case studies of InVision interpreting (which is done direct to camera) in Virtual Reality so we are now ironing out the kinks.

Click here for audio version (Ben Fredericks)

Christopher Samuel: The Waiting Room

The Waiting Room is a virtual reality piece developed by Christopher Samuel – a Black British artist whose work focuses on identity politics and disability issues. When you walk into the gallery you are presented with a set of waiting room chairs – easy, right? Now put on the headset and start playing the recording. Without revealing too much, this piece tackles the issues posed by the uncomfortableness of being in a waiting room, especially as a child. An interesting observation I have made is that people have been using this set-up as an actual waiting room. I love coming in and seeing the things people have added (such as copies of Phoenix’s brochure), which tells me even if people don’t engage fully with the VR, they at least have the analogue experience of sitting in a waiting room!

Working with Spark Arts we invited a group of school children with a range of access needs to experience The Waiting Room, they really enjoyed the VR element. Representation is important for everyone – we are not only presenting the current generation of artists, we are also inspiring and developing the next generation. If they don’t see themselves in the works we exhibit, they might give up on their own dreams – and that is why representation is embedded in every element of Phoenix’s programme.

Click here for audio version (Christopher Samuel)

Martin Cibik: Digital Imprint

Digital Imprint by Martin Cibik is a highly developed computer-generated work. Martin explores concepts of subconsciousness, our relation to them, and how we engage with things which exist beyond the limits of our understanding through digital technology.

In the gallery there is a projection of an ever-changing cube on the wall, and to the left is a spinning 3D-printed object. The rotating cube has been created fully in Blender and then exported to Unreal Engine (a software application for creating all kinds of interactive experiences and games) which also allows us to set it up in VR.

What is particularly impressive is Martin’s ability to use a wide range of mediums to produce incredibly detailed work.

Click here for audio version (Martin Cibik)

Les Hayden: Camille

Les Hayden’s installation comprises a piano and a projection of Camille, an AI-generated avatar who compels you to play along with the AI-generated music that Camille (with the help of Les, of course) has created. The eerie yet catchy song makes us think about questions of authorship, and whether you are actually controlling the piano as you play or whether it is in fact being controlled by the AI? This delves deep into recent conversations about creative authority when working with AI.

Click here to hear audio version (Les Hayden)

What’s Next?

We are now planning a Q&A session, so we can go into more detail about the topics explored in this exhibition and the technology that has been used to create the works.

There are curator tours every Tuesday from 2pm – 4pm. If you are interested in a tour please email [email protected], or speak to our Box Office team.

Transcripts are also available in the gallery – if you are having difficulty finding one, please ask a member of staff for assistance.