Rebecca Allen is a pioneering artist inspired by the aesthetics of motion, the study of perception and behaviour and the potential of advanced technology. Her artwork, which spans nearly four decades and takes the form of experimental video, large-scale performances, live simulations and virtual and augmented reality art installations, addresses issues of gender, identity and what it means to be human as technology redefines our sense of reality.
The installation Life Without Matter considers a future life in virtual reality where material things – physical matter – have mostly disappeared and our identity must be redefined. Within the virtual world we find ourselves in a mythic place. The viewer confronts their digital reflection, and since a virtual world is immaterial, a virtual mirror need not reflect one’s physical appearance, but rather the female, male and animal in all of us.
While the viewer interacts with their virtual reflection, their shadow is shown on a special screen in the exhibition space, revealing their actions to the audience. This presents two components; the intimate, self-reflective experience in the virtual world and the projected, public experience via the shadow screen.
With degrees from Rhode Island School of Design and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rebecca Allen (b. 1953, Michigan, USA) moves fluidly between artist studio and research lab, using her research to inform her art. Her artwork is exhibited internationally and is part of the permanent collection of the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Recent exhibitions include: Sync(Emerge(Consciousness)), QUAD Gallery, Derby, UK, 2018–19; Programmed: Rules, Codes, and Choreographies in Art, 1965–2018 (Fin de Siècle II collaboration with Nam June Paik), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2018-19; Very Real (permanent virtual reality exhibition), DAM Gallery, Berlin, 2018-ongoing; The Conquest of Reality (featuring INSIDE and The Tangle of Mind and Matter), Society for Arts and Technology (SAT), Montreal, Canada, 2018; and Kraftwerk – 3D (featuring video projections of Allen’s work from 1986), throughout Europe, February and June–September 2018.
Life Without Matter, 2018, was commissioned by QUAD Gallery, Derby, Arts Council England and Derby City Council.Rebecca Allen, image from Life Without Matter, 2018. Virtual Reality installation. Courtesy the artist