PRIYAMVADA NATARAJAN & ANTONY GORMLEY
Dr. Priyamvada Natarajan and Antony Gormley’s first virtual reality collaboration, Lunatick (2019), uses data collected by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to map a real and interactive journey, leaving Earth hurtling through the atmosphere, stratosphere, the asteroid belt, and into outer space. This immersive experience treats the body as a vessel, free from gravity, in order to bring the haptic experience of space alive. Wearing an immersive headset, viewers begin their journey on the deserted island of Kiribati (Christmas Island) in the Pacific Ocean – an island which, due to rising sea levels, is in danger of disappearing – due to the catastrophic effects of climate change. After discovering a launch pad in amongst a cluster of palm trees, the user’s body falls upwards through the clouds and into outer space. The user will then explore the intricate landscape of the cosmos by circumnavigating the globe and catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights, before arriving on the Moon. Users are invited to explore its vast surface and gravitational force, as only twelve humans have previously done.
From the moon, the viewer is thrown further into space, past the shimmering surface of the Milky Way, towards the heart of the solar system – the Sun – where they are eventually met by a blinding white light, marking the end of the piece. This artwork was produced by Acute Art using multi-scale modeling to recreate tiny elements such as flowers and colossal objects like the Sun. One of the most significant challenges was to create an optical sensation of the real size of an object, within the infinite scale of the cosmos. By exploring the cosmic realities at the heart of Dr Natarajan’s research, Gormley was able to take his lifelong investigation of the-body-in-space into another dimension. On VR, Gormley explains, ‘[it] is the latest tool to extend our consciousness imaginatively beyond the limits of our bounding condition and realise our cosmic identity.’ On the project, Dr Natarajan states, ‘I have always wanted to share the magic and majesty of the universe in a more intimate experiential way and this project Lunatick (2019) with Antony Gormley and Acute Art provided an exciting opportunity for just such a unique voyage of exploration.’ Lunatick was shown at the Venice Biennale in 2019 at the PHI IMMERSIVE THEATER and was due to be shown in the United States and Canada in 2020.