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Zaha Hadid Virtual Reality Group presents at 2018 International Festival of Films on Art (Le FiFA) in Montreal

Created by the Zaha Hadid Virtual Reality Group (ZHVR Group) in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture, this virtual reality project engineered four of Hadid’s early paintings as virtual reality environments for the 2016 exhibition ‘Zaha Hadid: Early Paintings and Drawings’ at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery.

As a visionary architect and painter, Hadid changed the way we think about the relationship between mediums. These architectural painting proposals remain heroic unrealised projects, which makes the VR experience all the more poignant for its ability to show how their spatial qualities unfold. The four 360 degree films translate some of the key aspects and DNA contained inside the paintings, offering a dynamic and immersive experience of the works.

Google’s ultra-high resolution Art Camera documented the paintings to enable a close up and intimate relationship with the viewer. This immersive VR experience is also available online at Google Arts & Culture.

Helmut Kinzler, Senior Associate leading ZHA's in-house virtual reality team, ZH VR Group, explained,"The VR painting installation was an idea that we pushed for – as a homage to Zaha, but also to promote the potential of our VR Group. The paintings done by Zaha in the 80s represent a level of experimentation and development of architectural ideas that were groundbreaking – but also remain as valid and as alive today.

"Virtual reality is a natural extension of the thinking behind the early paintings, which were influenced by Russian avant-garde artists including Kasimir Malevich. The paintings were the medium of choice for Zaha to break away from the 'traditional' architectural toolkit and to introduce a radical and innovative viewing, and to challenge the discourse.

"VR is the reciprocal digital platform today in which we want to show – and connect to – these ideas behind or inside the paintings. The paintings offer a highly individual reception and discourse between the designer and the viewer. In my view, Zaha made this choice to manifest that the ultimate benchmark and driver of architectural design is the individual."

Freya Murray, from Google Arts and Culture, believes Hadid's use of perspective and space in her paintings pre-empted virtual reality, "By taking the DNA of four of her paintings into virtual reality, our aim was to offer visitors to the exhibition new insights of the artworks and her architectural vision. It was a collaborative approach and one centred on continuing with Zaha Hadid's legacy of experimentation. The first-person perspective inherent to immersive VR is the closest development of this thought and therefore the right medium to continue to explore."

Image above: Still from the VR film of Zaha Hadid’s painting ‘The Great Utopia’ (a study for ‘The Great Utopia: The Russian and Soviet Avant-Garde’ exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, New York). “We used the spiral to make a story, and the idea of moving seamlessly through the exhibition began to emerge, as if walking on a slope. We wanted to see how you could interrupt this movement with exhibits which pushed you to the edge of the ramp, giving views across the atrium to other works.” explained Zaha Hadid in 1992.

Le FiFA website

Google Arts & Culture ‘Zaha Hadid at Serpentine Galleries’