by Nick O’Hara
The project: promoting Medusa, the latest creation from mixed reality studio Tin Drum. The challenge: explaining esoteric artistic content delivered through the innovative, and virtually unknown medium of immersive reality.
It was the media preview the next day, the show – already sold out – was to open in two days’ time, and we were in the V&A’s Raphael Court, home to Raphael’s Renaissance Cartoons, talking about jellyfish. All around us the echoes of voices and movements reverberated, bouncing off the mosaic stone of the interior hall within the grand museum, that gives the sense of constant night-time; an effect enhanced by the freshly redecorated dark blue walls, illuminated by LED lights encased in the barrel-vaulted ceiling.
Yoyo Munk, Director of Medusa, the centrepiece exhibit of this year’s London Design Festival, was patiently talking me through the various meanings of his creation. Munk works for the mixed reality studio Tin Drum, which produced Medusa in collaboration with renowned Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto. Medusa is a message to humanity: nature will bite back. Our challenge was to describe how Medusa is a visualisation of architecture through the medium of immersive reality – a combination of the virtual and the real. It is an exhibit that examines the interrelation between nature and art, unbounded by the laws of physics – such as gravity and physical form itself.
You wear special ‘mixed reality’ glasses to view this incredible structure that occupies the exhibition space without existing physically. The ‘additive’ reality of Medusa is viewed in combination with the real backdrop of the space and people in it – a mixed reality. This particular show is architecture, but not as we know it. Medusa asks: how do we experience architecture without physical structures involved? Indeed, in the absence of physical form and any practical utility, what is architecture?
Munk asserts that the utilitarian architecture we know has come at the expense of our natural habitat and ecosystem. He is inspired by natural phenomena rarely seen by humans, such as the aurora borealis (northern lights) and underwater bioluminescence (especially those jellyfish).
The structure, consisting of multiple tubes of light, evolves and mutates through a ‘breath pattern’, ebbing and flowing just as ocean currents do, and responds to the movements of the audience. Piano music, specially composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto in a beautiful score, and ocean sounds, create tranquillity along with the structure’s jellyfish tentacle movements The overall effect is a highly meditative experience.
Working on this project was a refreshing break from the norm. After initially grappling with the challenge of how to drum up media interest in Medusa, we came to the view that we didn’t need to explain it; we would simply seduce the media through curiosity. And, working collaboratively with our US colleagues at The Pollack Group and the London Design Festival’s PR team, that’s exactly what we did; gaining extensive coverage in national and international broadsheets and key design trade publications.
The hope is that, with the London Design Festival behind us, this show will exhibit elsewhere.
At its core, Medusa is a commentary on our collective failure to grasp the extent to which humanity has exploited the planet, causing irrevocable destruction. Munk wants us to consider an inescapable truth: we must be prepared to simply stop doing many of the things we have been doing to our planet for far too long.
“We are building more structures now than ever before, buoyed by our reliance on fossil fuels, but this period of expansion will end, and if the human species is to survive, our way of life will come to more closely resemble what life was like for humans before fossil fuels were discovered.”
Nick O’Hara Director of Public Affairs