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Warm Worlds And Otherwise (Interview)

7 October to 9 December 2018

Warm Worlds and Otherwise is artist Anna Bunting-Branch’s first major solo exhibition, staging an ambitious, experimental new work in Virtual Reality.

The exhibition draws on Bunting-Branch's long-standing interest in the encounters between feminist practice and science fiction, to explore ideas of worldbuilding, embodied perception and technologies of representation.

The exhibition's centre-piece is META, a prototype for a new work in VR, jointly commissioned by Wysing Arts Centre, The Mechatronic Library, FACT, Liverpool and QUAD.

In this iteration of META, digital arts studio Werkflow have transformed Bunting-Branch’s hand-painted characters, props and backdrops into an immersive virtual storyworld. As the viewer is transported between environments - from an unknown planet to a restaurant orbiting in space and beyond - we inhabit the bodies of different human and non-human characters in the narrative.

Entering the gallery, the viewer encounters a simple looping animation offering the words 'Well-come, World Travellor! Beyond the animation, an enclosed area of the gallery suggests one of the worlds from the VR work. Here, four specially designed viewing stations present META on a series of modified Oculus Go headsets, which have been extensively remodeled by Bunting-Branch. The exhibition is scored by a newly commissioned ambient sound work by artist Aliyah Hussain.

In Wysing's reception, a small reference library collates some of the material that informed the research for Warm Worlds and Otherwise, including classic and contemporary feminist science fiction such as Naomi Mitchison's Memoirs of a Spacewoman, 1962, and Aliette de Bodard's Immersion, 2012, and the collection of short stories by James Tiptree Jr. (the pen name of Alice Bradley Sheldon), from which the exhibition takes its title.

Together with these examples of genre fiction, Bunting-Branch's interest in the reconfiguration of sensory perception is also influenced by theoretical works such as Luce Irigaray's Is the Subject of Science Sexed?, 1985, and A Foray into the Worlds's of Animals and Humans, 1934, in which bio-philosopher Jakob von Uexküll develops his concept of 'umwelten' - subjective bubble worlds unique to each and every organism.

From cutting-edge experiments in VR, to the once-revolutionary technology of the paperback book, Warm Worlds and Otherwise is interested in how technologies produce new knowledge. META's painterly aesthetic references the work of artist Maria Lassnig (1919-2014) and science illustrator Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717), particularly their representations of embodied sensations and bodily transformations, and shows Bunting-Branch's commitment to painting as an affective generative technology.

Video: Wilf Speller

Anna Bunting-Branch (born 1987, Cambridge, UK) is an artist and researcher based in London. Recent publications and events include POEKHALI!, Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen (2018); More generous and more suspicious - Feminist SF as a worldbuilding practice, MAP Magazine (2018); figure, feels, fantom Art Licks, Issue 22 (2018); Hauntopia/What If?, The Research Pavilion, Venice (2017); I AM SF, CCA, Derry~Londonderry (2017); The Labours of Barren House, Jerwood Space, London (2017); Witchy Methodologies, ICA, London (2017). Anna is currently undertaking a practice-related PhD at Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, supported by the AHRC London Arts & Humanities Partnership. Her thesis, titled Things Could Be Thought Differently -- Reading feminist science fiction with Luce Irigaray, considers feminist SF as a methodology to approach the speculative question of sexual difference in both theory and practice. www.annabuntingbranch.com

Aliyah Hussain’s practice approaches themes found within feminist science fiction literature, in particular the possibilities of co-sharing space in domestic or social settings. Using ceramic sculpture, handmade instruments and found objects to generate sound, her work is made using contact mics and effects pedals as well as synth and melodica. Hussain is interested in exploring the physicality of sound, using feeling and sensitivity to record movement and gesture. Her sound works take influence from the tradition of scoring music for film but is made to accompany text, specifically works of feminist science fiction and she makes experimental electronic music influenced by new age, ambient and Science Fiction.

Hussain is based at Islington Mill studios, Salford, UK. She has released two EPs of experimental electronic music - Woman on the Edge of Time and Sultana’s Dream with Manchester-based cassette tape label Sacred Tapes. She has exhibited and performed nationally and internationally, most recently at the Slade research centre and Roaming Projects, London and Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, UK.

Werkflow is an experimental digital arts studio based in Somerset House, London. Werkflow focus on using game engine technology to create unique work spanning the fields of music, art, fashion and advertising, alongside producing our first full-length computer game, Sovereign. As well as creating their own studio led projects, their highly collaborative practice leads them to work and consult with highly acclaimed artists, designers and institutions, creating experimental computer-generated imagery.

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