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Beyond Matter

Virtual recreation of the exhibition "Les Immatériaux" [Immaterial] (1985)

Beyond Matter is a project funded by the European Commission, via its Education, Audio-Visual & Culture agency (EACEA). It is led by the Zentrum für Kunst und Medien (Zkm), Karlsruhe, Germany and brings together European artistic institutions of varying profiles: the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Ludwig Muzeum, Budapest, Hungary; the Sihtasutus Kunstihoone art centre, Tallinn, Estonia; the Tirana Art Lab, Albania and the Aalto Korkeakoulusaation art school, Helsinki, Finland. It will run for three and a half years, from October 2019 to May 2023. 


Beyond Matter aims to develop the technological and theoretical tools to virtually recreate past exhibitions and the documentation of ongoing exhibitions. In web and museum spaces, with or without VR glasses, the objective is to create interactive 3D settings, fed by various levels of information, the latter sourced from studies at the crossroads of fields: exhibition curating, scenography, museology, mediation, conservation, digitalisation and documentation, etc. 

The virtual recreation software and its data base will be implemented by the private company Weiss AG, specialised in virtual reality and using technology it has been developing since 2008. The various partners of the project will supply the data base, which will be an ongoing process open to a wide range of text, image, audio, video and 3D file formats. 

The Centre Pompidou will focus on the recreation of one of its pioneering exhibitions, "Les Immatériaux", which took place in 1985 in the Grande Galerie (level 5 of the Centre Pompidou). Philosopher Jean-François Lyotard was general curator of the exhibition, in association with Thierry Chaput, from the Industrial Creation Centre and Bernard Blistène from the Musée National d’Art Moderne.


"Les Immatériaux" was an essay on philosophical foundations, adopting the exhibition as a medium or interface. By creating a dialogue between works of art, technology and scientific documents, the curators explored the human condition, through various aspects of physical and mental life, in the age of new technology. The particularly innovative exhibition design triggered disorientation, stimulation of all the senses and interactivity. Visitors, whose pathway was not guided, but ‘induced’ by hanging screens of varying opacity, were provided with a headset playing a soundtrack which varied as they moved through the twenty-six areas of the exhibition


All the archives related to "Immatériaux" are held in the institutional archives of the Centre Pompidou and have already been the subject of in-depth studies. The researcher Andreas Broeckmann, in particular, has devoted his research to these archives for more than 5 years. Notwithstanding the fact that the documentation lacks certain elements, the aim of the Beyond Matter project is not necessarily to produce an integral and highly accurate virtual recreation of the artefacts and the exhibition spaces. The virtual reality will be designed as a new medium through which the philosophical and emotional intentions evoked in Immatériaux will be presented as a translation and not a reproduction, through the very particular construction of interactions between artefacts, spaces, technology and visitors. The issue of conserving an exhibition, or "manifestation", to quote Jean-François Lyotard, which mirrors the specific concerns of museums, will also be a focal point. 


The virtual recreation of "Immatériaux" will be developed by alternating between practice, (the manipulation of technology and immersion in the archives) and theory. One of the first "test" steps will consist in the virtual recreation of a well-documented area of the exhibition, entitled "Labyrinth of Language".