Is Virtual Reality The Future Of Art? Jon Rafman At Zabludowicz Collection Reviewed
We first noticed Jon Rafman when his project The Nine Eyes Of Google Street View presented us with the beautiful, bizarre and often violent images captured by Google's team of marauding vehicles mapping out cities. It was a fun project and we had high hopes for this large exhibition in the abandoned church, now occupied by the Zabludowicz Collection.
On entering it's clear this is no standard art exhibition — visitors are invited to kick-off their shoes and sink into a giant ball pit as they watch Manga imagery and what we can only describe as animal costume bondage on a central screen. It's not the only weird experience on offer as we then shut ourselves in a cupboard and watch the aftermaths of first person shooter video games with a philosophical voice over.
Upstairs we get to lie on a water bed and watch a video of lots of people floating in what looks like a giant wave pool. As we sway with the video and we start to feel the cold of the water beneath us, it feels like we're almost there.
The magnum opus of this show is a maze filled with sculptures. Visitors are invited to don an Oculus Rift (virtual reality) headset before being taken on a voyage — we won't spoil the fun but those afraid of heights may want to give this a miss. It's freeing and surreal, yet also a disconcerting experience which made us wonder whether this technology will become increasingly prevalent as artists seek to make video art more interactive.
This exhibition is a little all over the place and definitely falls into the category we call 'vomit art', yet it still manages to be engaging and is definitely one of the most innovative art shows we've seen. One warning we will share is as many of the experiences are for one or a few people at a time, so there can be queues at busy times especially weekends.
Though this exhibition may divide people, Rafman is pushing the boundaries of how audiences can engage with art and he deserves to be applauded for bringing this level of novelty and engagement to the art consuming public.
Jon Rafman is on at Zabludowicz Collection, 176 Prince of Wales Road, NW5 3PT until 20 December. Entrance is free and the venue is open Thursday to Sunday, 12-6pm.
Last Updated 18 October 2015