Fantasy architecture takes over Vienna’s MAK

Video games, AI and utopian renders prod the limits of design

Imagine if money was no object, and the only limit on architecture and design was imagination. Vienna’s MAK Museum delves into virtual dreamscapes, AI and renders with its new exhibition titled, /imagine: a journey into the new virtual.

The expansive exhibition takes its fame from a text command in the software, Midjourney, which allows users to create their own utopian fantasy using infinitely varied AI-generated images.

Curated by Bika Rebek, principal of Some Place Studio, and Marlies Wirth, MAK’s digital culture curator, they explain: ‘Computational tools have not only revolutionized the design process and concept development in architecture and design, but also expanded our cultural, social, political, and aesthetic understanding of how we shape, experience, and navigate space.’

/imagine unravels as four chapters —’Speculative Narratives and Worldbuilding’, ‘Research Investigations’, ‘Dreamscapes’, and ‘AI and Algorithmic Variation’ – and features video games, blockchain-based projects, and VR installations.

Hyperrealistic digital artworks by Andrés Reisinger and Alexis Christodoulou, created during the COVID-19 pandemic, are populated by bulbous, organic architecture, pink colour palettes and jaw-dropping natural scenery. While flaunting the laws of physics, the architectural works are heavily influenced by botanics and response to the isolation of lockdown, which physically confined us – while encouraging our minds to seek out fantasy dreamscapes.

‘Speculative Narratives’ presents provocative visions of the future, including Liam Young’s film Planet City (2020), set in a 2050 megacity. Kordae Jatafa Henry’s VFX film Earth Mother, Sky Father (2019) documents raw materials mined in the Congo.

Artefacts and monuments destroyed by ISIS are replicated through 3D printing, and artist Miriam Hillawi Abraham’s VR game Abyssinian Cyber Vernaculus invites players to explore Ethiopia’s historic Lalibela site in the next section on ‘Research Investigations’, which interrogates how technology can be used for preservation and research.

Rebek’s firm, Some Place Studio, designed sets for the exhibition, taking cues from the artworks to create 3D custom displays and a lounge area with space-bending infinity mirrors and seating.

‘/imagine: a journey into the new virtual’ runs at MAK Wein until 9 October 2023

Andrés Reisinger × Júlia Esqué × Moooi, Hortensia Chair, 2019
Alexis Christodoulou, Quantum Express, 2022
Studio Mary Lennox, Charlotte Taylor, formundrausch, Smokebush Court, 2020
Liam Young, Planet City, 2020
Space Popular, The Fabric of Civic Teleportation, 2021
Exhibition view at the MAK, Vienna. © Some Place Studio

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