An online art exhibition that’s literally out of this world, Erewhon by Geng Dayou is set in a sprawling alien world that begs to be explored. Geng’s first virtual solo exhibition, which was built using virtual reality development software Unity, was released in April but is still running today.
WSJ. Men’s Style China has described Erewhon as the “closest contemporary art practice to the metaverse under the current technology.”
Born in Shandong province, south of Beijing along China’s East Coast, 24-year-old Geng is an artist, curator, writer, and the co-founder of Vrch Studio, an interdisciplinary art, design, and tech collective.
While terms such as ‘spatial-web’ and ‘mixed-reality technology’ might be incomprehensible jargon to most, they’re just part of the transdisciplinary artist’s daily vocabulary.
With a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in contemporary art procured in London, the Shanghai-based artist is deeply influenced by Eastern and Western philosophies.
Human consciousness is his most significant interest, confides Geng in RADII: “I decided to study psychology because I wanted to understand myself better, to become self-aware. Trying to understand my work equates to trying to understand my own consciousness.”
A video game enthusiast since he was 3 years old, Geng grew to love psychology and theater as he got older. As such, Erewhon is a culmination of the artist’s three-way interest in gaming, theater, and psychoanalysis.
“In my opinion, video games are the best medium to enhance interaction,” says Geng. “But when making Erewhon, I saw myself more as a theater director. I didn’t want to feed my work to an audience; I wanted them to interact with it freely and without directions.”
Sure enough, there are no arrows plastered on the walls in Erewhon to encourage visitors to follow a particular flow or gallery attendants handing out maps — just a sense of unlimited (perhaps overwhelming), open-world freedom. ‘Gallery-goers’ even have the option of interacting with one another in addition to the artworks on display.
Coined by English novelist Samuel Butler, who also penned a namesake book, ‘Erewhon’ is an anagram of ‘here’ and ‘now.’ Geng took it to mean that to deconstruct reality, we should not reject it but reverse it.
German composer Richard Wagner served as Geng’s second muse for the project. An admirer of Wagner’s concept of Gesamtkunstwerk, or ‘total artwork,’ the vicenarian believes that all artistic disciplines are interconnected.
“Contemporary art should always be interdisciplinary, so artists are never limited in the process of creation,” says Geng.
“AR and VR experiences are already pushing the boundaries [of art]. But I feel like technology is almost its own animal. So maybe, with art, we can find a way to guide technology in a more human and humane way,” muses the artist.
Check out Erewhon by Geng Dayou by clicking here.
All images courtesy of Geng Dayou
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