Hidden Vistas consists of virtual reality works created by Sarah Nelson Wright in collaboration with artist Edrex Fontanilla as part of the Chance Ecologies project. This series of works includes:
- Over The River (virtual reality installation, 2015)
- Hidden Vistas (virtual reality installation, 2016)
- Immersive Landscapes: Hunter’s Point South (360 video, 2016)
- Immersive Landscapes: Flushing River (360 video, 2016)
- Chance Ecologies’ Wild Panorama Walk (presentation of site-specific actions, 2018)
- Daily Walk: Chance Ecologies (site-specific virtual reality, 2018)
Overview of Over The River, Hidden Vistas, and Immersive Landscapes
These works were commissioned and curated by Chance Ecologies, “a framework for artistic gestures and research projects exploring the un-designed landscapes and wilderness found in abandoned spaces, post-industrial sites, and landfills.” Chance Ecologies was created by Catherine Grau, Nathan Kensinger and Stephen Zacks. Participation is by invitation of these curators.
Over The River:
OVER THE RIVER is a virtual reality installation that transports the wearer to the lost landscape of Hunter’s Point South, Queens. Visitors are invited to step onto gravel, peer into the mask and experience IMMERSIVE LANDSCAPES: HUNTER’S POINT SOUTH, a 360 video documenting a unique space that recently vanished from New York City’s waterfront, offering views of a now-demolished ecosystem. Observers travel through a lush, overgrown forest to a sublime, postindustrial waterfront across from the midtown Manhattan skyline.
In Summer of 2015, the curators of Chance Ecologies invited select group of artists to create works about this liminal space. Hunter’s Point South is a large, formerly industrial site built on layers of landfill that was left fallow for 40 years and grew into a verdant forest with a robust ecology. In fall 2015, the city removed this forest to make way for high-rise condominiums and an official public park. Using virtual reality, OVER THE RIVER transports users to this uncanny urban space, allowing them to exist in a place that no longer exists.
OVER THE RIVER debuted in the group show Chance Ecologies: The Wild Landscape of Hunter’s Point South at the Radiator Gallery in Long Island City, Queens (2015). Founded and directed by internationally-shown artist Tamas Veszi, Radiator Gallery has hosted local and international contemporary art exhibits since 2012.
Curatorial Statement for Chance Ecologies at Radiator Gallery
OVER THE RIVER was subsequently presented in a site-specific iteration for the Queens Museum (2016), as part of a series of public art events commissioned for the launch of author Rebecca Solnit’s book Nonstop Metropolis.
HIDDEN VISTAS is a virtual reality installation consisting of an artist-made scenic viewer that offers immersive, experiential glimpses of two liminal urban spaces. Users can look into the viewer and rotate it, while experiencing two 360-video documentaries: IMMERSIVE LANDSCAPES: HUNTER’S POINT SOUTH (see above) and IMMERSIVE LANDSCAPES: FLUSHING RIVER, a newer work transporting observers to the Flushing River, traveling from more formal park spaces to hidden borderlands, between industry and nature, coexisting with flora and fauna as planes soar overhead.
HIDDEN VISTAS allows observers to witness and be present in marginal or vanished landscapes that they may not otherwise see, to encourage viewers to see value and develop empathy for these places. It adopts the metaphor of distance viewing, to make virtual reality accessible in an all-ages public art museum.
These works were developed as part of Chance Ecologies: Flushing River, which invited a small group of artists to participate in the summer-long Studio in the Park Residency, which was co-sponsored by the Queens Museum and the NYC Parks Department in Summer 2016.
HIDDEN VISTAS was exhibited at the Queens Museum in New York City in October 2016, in the group show Chance Ecologies: Queens, curated by Catherine Grau and Nathan Kensinger. The Queens Museum is a state-of-the-art museum presenting internationally recognized arts programming while achieving excellence in local community engagement with the diverse population of Queens.
Curatorial statement for Chance Ecologies: Queens
Chance Ecologies’ Wild Panorama Walk:
In Winter/Spring 2018, the curators of Chance Ecologies invited five artists, including Sarah Nelson Wright, to participate in a series of site visits in all five boroughs of New York City, as part of a new project to experience, document and develop interventions that will become public programming.
The selected artists and the curators will present the results of these initial site-visits at the Queens Museum for Open Engagement, “an annual, three-day, artist-led conference dedicated to expanding the dialogue around and creating a site of care for the field of socially engaged art. OE has presented eight conferences in two countries and six cities, hosting over 1,600 presenters and over 6,000 attendees. Annual programming is selected by committees comprised of artists, educators, professionals, and community members from a free, open call for proposals.” – Open Engagement website
Selection for the conference is juried and competitive. The conference was founded by Jen Delos Reyes, Associate Director of the School of Art & Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Daily Walk: Chance Ecologies
In June 2018, as part of Democracy Lab at the Spacebuster, in partnership with the Brooklyn Library, Chance Ecologies led a public walk on Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. HIDDEN VISTAS was installed in a vacant lot for this walk.
- “Being (T)here: Experiencing Place and Presence in Augmented and Virtual Reality Documentary Projects”, i-Docs: Interactive Documentary Conference at the Digital Cultures Research Centre and University of the West of England (Bristol, UK 2016)
- “Hidden Vistas: Empathy and Place in Virtual Reality Installations,” Creatively Engaging Chance Ecologies – Chance Ecologies: Queens Symposium, Queens Museum (Corona NY, 2016) view program
- “Hidden Vistas: Empathy, Place and Immersive Documentary,” Chance Ecologies: Artists and Post-Industrial Urban Wilderness, UnionDocs Center for Documentary Art (Brooklyn NY, 2017) view program
- “Revealing Here: Using AR and VR to Transform Sense of Place,” Codes and Modes: Reframing Reality, Virtuality and Non-Fiction Media, Hunter College (New York NY, 2017)
- Empathy for Place by Sarah Nelson Wright and Edrex Fontanilla in Mediapolis Journal, Sept 2016 (editorial invitation)
- Episode 639: Art and Ecology, Bad At Sports, June 2018