A huge simulation of a room similar to a morgue, is what the Australian artist Shaun Gladwell prepared, in “Passing Electrical Storms”, at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.
Gladwell is known for his video art works that explore themes such as movement, time, and space. His latest project, “Passing Electrical Storms”, is a virtual reality installation that simulates the experience of dying of a heart attack and having an out-of-body experience.
In “Passing Electrical Storms,” participants lie on a medical bed and wear a virtual reality headset that guides them through a scenario of cardiac arrest, resuscitation, brain death, and transcendence. The VR environment is based on real medical data and technology, as well as Gladwell’s personal experiences and research on near-death phenomena. The installation aims to create a meditative yet haunting experience that challenges participants’ perception of reality and mortality.
Gladwell described the experience as “getting away from yourself and then floating in the giant universe” in an interview with the Australian this week.
“By simulating death as an experience in its final minutes, it is a meditation on the ephemerality of individual life,” Gladwell told the outlet. “For me, it’s not all gloomy, but rather a spectrum of colors and moods.”
An attendee uploaded their experience to TikTok:
“What happens is you’re lying down, the bed vibrates, you go flat, the doctors outnumber you, you can see yourself through the glasses and they try to revive you,” he explained. “It doesn’t work, then you float past some, in space, and yes, it goes on, but I won’t ruin everything.”
Gladwell claims that he was inspired by his fascination with storms, which he sees as a metaphor for the sublime and ephemeral. He also states that he wanted to use VR as a means to explore the potential for immersive storytelling and artistic expression. He collaborated with ABC producer Leo Faber and Deakin University’s Motion Lab to develop the VR hardware and software for the installation.
“Passing Electrical Storms” is one of the most innovative and provocative works of art in the Melbourne Now exhibition, which runs until June 2023. The exhibition features more than 100 artists and collectives from various disciplines and backgrounds, presenting their works in different formats and venues throughout the city. The exhibition aims to celebrate the diversity and creativity of Melbourne’s art scene and to engage the public in a dialogue on contemporary themes and ideas.