Time travel has long been the fantasy technology of our culture, the one that is frequently evoked when anyone ventures to ask, ‘and what period of history do you wish you could live in?’ Though the defining text of time travel is Wells’s The Time Machine, in which a hapless inventor hurtles forward through the unknown, the primary driving force behind a desire for the technology is to return to time past. For a true glimpse of Augustus’s Rome, Elizabeth’s England, Lincoln’s America. Virtual reality, though only the shadow of such a trip, could very well be being driven in its current momentum by this age-old wish to tumble down the rabbit-hole of time.
This is the opportunity being offered at the Tate Modern later this year. Running from 23rd November to the 2nd April, the art gallery will be holding a huge exhibition of the works of Amedeo Modigliani. One-hundred years after his 1917 exhibition in Paris was closed by the police for ‘gross indecency’, Tate are collecting almost one-hundred of Modigliani’s pieces together for a virtual reality-accompanied tour.
In conjunction with HTC Vive, the exhibition will offer visitors the chance to view Modigliani’s works in their original habitat, the early years of twentieth-century Paris. Beginning with his move to Paris in 1906, the tour will chart his career, from evolutions in his technique to the influence of fellow artists, to provide a better understanding of the man’s life and art. It will, if it is to be an accurate stroll through the romanticised streets of Paris between the two great wars, be a tour accompanied with a heavy intake of wine and an introductory offer of hashish.
Announced on the HTC Vive’s blog, the experience “will draw on archival material and new research to bring his historical context to life.” In previous collaborations, HTC Vive have worked alongside the Tribeca Film Festival and the Venice Biennale, and in both ventures appeared to have applied the technology successfully, an important feat considering the ease with which virtual reality can become an expensive novelty. If the same attention to detail is paid to the Modigliani exhibition, then it will more than likely open the Tate Modern, and museums and galleries more widely, to working more frequently alongside VR.