[ISEA2013] Artists Statement: Sarah Kenderdine & Jeffrey Shaw – Pure Land: Inside the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang

Artists Statement

Making its Australian debut in ISEA2013, Pure Land digitally recreates one of the famous, UNESCO world heritage listed cave temples in Dunhuang, northwestern China. Recognised as a religious and cultural gateway on the ancient Silk Road that carried trade between China, western Asia and India for over 1000 years, the 742 caves are today closed to the public on a rotating basis to ensure their preservation; this work transcends this limitation by immersing visitors in a 360-degree interactive panoramic projection theatre evoking the authentic experience of being inside one of the caves, thus bringing new, sustainable life to the aesthetic and spiritual drama of Dunhuang’s extraordinary paintings and sculptures. This 1:1 scale, virtual 3D facsimile of Cave 220, presented in iCinema’s Advanced Visualization and Interaction Environment (AVIE), exploits various digital image processing techniques, 2D and 3D animation as well as 3D cinematography to further develop AVIE’s experiential and interpretative capabilities. The installation, first exhibited publicly in Gallery360 at City University, Hong Kong (2011), was subsequently shown at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, where it was described as being “the exhibition experience of the future” by Julian Raby, director of the Freer Sackler Galleries of Art. Keith Kennicott wrote in the Washington Post: “… at last we have a virtual reality system that is worthy of inclusion in a museum devoted to the real stuff of art.” (Nov 30, 2012).
Friends of Dunhuang HK is a not-for-profit organisation active in conservation and education programs about the Mogao Grottoes. Established in 1943 by the Chinese government, the Dunhuang Academy has carried out many large projects that include conservation to restore and consolidate the cliff surface, caves, statues and murals, and extensive digitisation of cave interiors.

Project Donor: Mr Gabriel Yu (Chairman of Executive Committee of Friends of Dunhuang Hong Kong). Project Conception and Direction: Dr Sarah Kenderdine, Prof Jeffrey Shaw (City University Hong Kong), Art Direction / Interpretation / Script: Ms Lou Jie (Dunhuang Academy). Cave 220 Dataset: Mr Wu Jian (Dunhuang Academy). Art Advisor: Mrs Lee Mei-Yin (Special Researcher with Dunhuang Academy, Friends of Dunhuang Hong Kong). Software Application : Mr Mo Luk, Mr Leith Chan. AVIE: iCinema/Immersive Realisation.  alive.scm.cityu.edu.hk/projects/alive/pure-land-inside-the-mogao-grottoes-at-dunhuang-2012      dha.ac.cn

  • Dr Sarah Kenderdine researches at the forefront of interactive and immersive experiences for museums and galleries. In widely exhibited installation works she has amalgamated cultural heritage with new media art practice. She currently holds the position of Special Projects, Museum Victoria, and is a Visiting Assoc. Prof., Director of Research at the Applied Laboratory for Interactive Visualization and Embodiment (ALiVE), and also Director of the Centre for Innovation in Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (iGLAM), all at CityU, Hong Kong.
  • Jeffrey Shaw is a world-renowned pioneer in new media art. He was co-founder of the Eventstructure Research Group Amsterdam (1969-79), and is the founding director of the ZKM Institute for Visual Media, Karlsruhe, Germany. In 2003 he was awarded an Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship to co-found and direct the UNSW iCinema Research Centre. Since 2009 he has been Chair Professor of Media Art and Dean of the School of Creative Media at City University Hong Kong. cityu.edu.hk/scm