RSA Journal Issue 1, 2024: RSA's first 'hybrid exhibition'

RSA JOURNAL ISSUE 1 2024: Celebrating 270 Years of the RSA 

Combining a VR gallery with an IRL exhibition at RSA House, London, Zoe Camper FRSA, and Julie Samuels FRSA created the first hybrid art exhibition for UK and international RSA Fellows. 

Written by Eva Pascoe, London Fellowship Council Representative

(This is the extended version of the article that is featured in the RSA Journal on page 47)

Loneliness and increased isolation of people who work from home have been exacerbated during Covid. We are leading increasingly atomized lives, disconnected from each other, and cut off from our work communities. As the shift from office to homework accelerates, supporting each other is getting more challenging. 

This was the main reason that I responded with enthusiasm to a proposal to develop a large creative art collaboration of International Fellows. This was the main reason that I responded with enthusiasm to a proposal to develop a large creative art collaboration of International Fellows. In my day job, I run a cooperative, and I know first-hand the positives of inviting like-minded people to share their creative ideas. I was truly intrigued to be approached by Julie Samuels (UK) and Zoë Camper (US), two RSA Fellows looking for support for a hybrid exhibition project. Committed to the idea that Creative Offers Us A New Formula For Life, they tasked themselves to connect with other fellows who were equally passionate. 

They connected 28 creative contributors, fellows, and non-fellows from the UK, Italy, Malta, the US, Columbia, Canada, and Morocco. Their vision and exploration of creativity culminated with collaborations across disciplines including artists, makers, musicians, dressmakers, futurists, scholars, gardeners, and writers. That is creativity in action. Inviting non-fellows to contribute was an opportunity to introduce them to the RSA fellowship. 

Zoë Camper and Julie Samuels were the souls of the project and the lead curators, who brought everything together, with the physical exhibition taking place in RSA House between November 1st and December 15th, 2023. The VR gallery exhibition will continue until March 2024. The physical artworks will move to The Hive in Warwickshire for a larger extended reality exhibition between May and June. Callum Bate, Area Manager - Central (RSA) has been instrumental in connecting the RSA and The Hive. 

 “I am really thankful to Julie, Zoë, and the team at The Hive for making this happen. This is a fantastic and collaborative opportunity for the artists involved and the RSA to connect with Fellows and the general public by bringing the exhibition up to the Central region, to such a great and creative space in the heart of Worcester. I hope we can work closely with The Hive going forward to give more to RSA Fellows and the public.” Callum Bate, Area Manager - Central (RSA) 

This next phase of the exhibition includes workshops and talks inspired by the artworks that will be displayed; they will also be available online as well as physically at the Hive. 

“The Hive is excited to be working alongside the RSA to bring the ASN’s showcase of the importance of creativity in our lives to Worcester. As a library committed to community and creativity, we look forward to connecting with an organisation rooted in curiosity, courage and working collectively.” Gee Cartmell, Hive Events Coordinator

Zoë and Julie run the project under the Augmented Society RSA Thematic Network’s 2023-24 programme, and have curated a 5-month-long hybrid exhibition in RSA House and, the first for RSA, in a connected Virtual Reality space. 

After many different trials and some failed approaches (who said innovation is easy), we concluded that a hybrid concept was integral for this unique and exciting exhibition space in RSA House London, using the physical venue as a virtual portal through which visitors can explore the creative work of contributors from the comfort of their home, in large monumental scale. Think Narnia but without the wardrobe! Both original works and their giant Digital Twins in VR were made available and free to access, using the ASN’s three connected Virtual Reality galleries. 

The opening of the exhibition was held on The Steps, with international artists joining the live event via Zoom. A guided tour in RSA House followed, with visitors able to view the works on display in the House, as well as the opportunity to experience a guided tour in VR, presented by the Cybersalon team (with special thanks to Caron Lyon). After the launch, to expand the access to as many visitors as possible the curating team scheduled fortnightly guided tours with featured contributors, providing visitors with an opportunity to meet the contributors and hear them speak about their creative experience ( for event details). 

It has been an amazing experience for us on the team to walk around the ASN galleries with other people, artists, and their friends and visitors. 

See the exhibition here:   

My comments on some of the exhibits

As I am a big fan of maps, the artwork that I was immediately attracted to was designed to spark curiosity Julie Samuels’s fantasy maps illustrate fragile connections and conversations that are often difficult, interrupted and misunderstood, lost and found memories. Julie is the co-curator of the exhibition and the author of a recent academic book “Adoption in Digital Age”, which examines the transformation of the field of adoption due to the Internet. 

More musings on ‘lost and found’ theme has emerged from the work of Dr Rashida Marbouh (FRSA from Morocco), where she brings back from near extinction the intricate Moroccan heritage textile-making skills. Rashida weaves those themes back into an updated modern Moroccan garment, sharing her journey of past and future culture connection. Themes of cultural alienation, seeking reconnection, and enriching the future with the shards of the past are visible in her beautiful work. 

Our desire to reconnect and find ‘soul’ in computers is examined in the works of Ismael Kherroubi-Garcia. He reveals our deep anxiety and roots of obsession with AI. His work reveals our reflective need to connect to ‘the machine’, to imbue non-organic objects like computers with human-like intelligence and emotions. 

Modern isolation and the anxiety it causes are visible in Anne Waldon's film. Anne is a Transformation Coach by background, focusing on finding paths of passage from past ways of work, and life, connecting to the modern incarnation of community, and examining modern stress and anxiety as it morphs into new formats. 

I was also fascinated to discover another US-based Fellow, Sawyer Rose. In collaboration with Angela Williams Bickham (poet and independent researcher), Sawyer Rose has created artworks that connect us to the lives of free Black Women in 1830 America. Their struggles and the need for collective action are visibly emerging in their early rebuilding of life and challenges of reconnecting to the community of free folk. 

Finally, for me, the most intriguing piece was by Zoë Camper, a Las Vegas-based Fellow, and co-curator of the exhibition. Zoë is one of the pioneers of AI bots for health applications and has long long-standing interest in cybersecurity and identity. Her work of multiple portraits of her friends explores the beauty of trusted friends, with the assurance of provenance of the artwork. She is exploring tools to fight fakes and use blockchain to bring trust back to the art collectors’ community. 

** The project was supported by London Fellows, Eva Pascoe, (Digital Futures Thinktank based in London); Caron Lyon - VR Studio PCM Creative; Hannah Derozario, Jess Hyett, and Celia Barton from RSA Staff with Celia Barton, Jess Hyett and Hannah Derozario giving their time generously and provided us a steer on how to synthesize the beauty of the physical venue of Adams House with meaningful integration with VR gallery spaces.

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