Mat Collishaw: Thresholds at Branford’s National Science and Media Museum
Launched last year at the Somerset House in London, ‘Thresholds’ is now showing at Branford’s National Science and Media Museum, where museum-goers can embark on a VR journey. Visitors will travel back in time to 1839, when British scientist William Henry Fox Talbot first presented his photographic prints to the public at King Edward's School in Birmingham.
The experience will be a fully immersive portal to the past; visitors can walk freely throughout a digitally reconstructed room, and will be able to touch the bespoke vitrines, fixtures and mouldings; even the heat from a coal fire will be recreated. Infrared sensors will track visitors’ movements, creating ghostly avatars that indicate their position and enhance the feeling of travelling through time. Collishaw has also created a soundscape to accompany the exhibition: the demonstrations of the Chartist protesters who rioted in 1839 on the streets of Birmingham, and who can be glimpsed through the digital windows.
The original 19th-century exhibition, staged by the British Association for the Advancement of Science, celebrated cutting edge technological innovation. Many new inventions were premiered there, a number of which have been faithfully researched and digitally reconstructed for today’s audiences. Unfortunately, Fox Talbot’s original images have faded almost beyond recognition with several of the surviving photographs existing only in light-proof vaults. Thresholds not only restages an important historical exhibition but provides a way to view images that have since been lost to the public.
Mat Collishaw said: “I have been looking to work with virtual reality for a number of years and I’m delighted that it has now become a feasible medium for me to use in an artwork. VR’s ability to enable visitors to revisit the birth of photography – a medium that has come to saturate our lives – is uncanny and compelling. It’s also quite appropriate as VR is the total 360 degree immersion of the viewer within an image, and is itself one of the many innovations spawned by the invention of photography.”
National Science and Media Museum in England
Little, Horton Lane, Bradford BD1 1NQ
March 2nd-May 7th 2018