Is VR the “right” medium to experience Hilma af Klint’s paintings? Decide for yourself at The Temple

“The biggest challenge of course is that Hilma af Klint is no longer alive”: Acute Art sets about realising the temple af Klint wanted to build for her paintings in 360º VR.

4 October 2022

Hilma af Klint always dreamt of housing her most important works in a “spiral shaped building”, London venue Koko explains. The Swedish artist, who was inspired by the teachings of German mystic Christian Rosenkreuz, wanted this “temple” to be erected on an island in Sweden but the building never materialised. This is the premise behind The Temple, a new af Klint exhibition premiering at London’s Koko during Frieze, although it can be best described as a virtual reality experience. Produced by Acute Art, working in art production in VR and AR, it will transport audiences inside some of af Klint’s works, housed, at last, in the temple she wished to build. The whole thing can be experienced by the public through VR headsets.

This is not the first time Acute Art has merged AR, MR, VR and the works of famous artists – Marina Abramović, Jeff Koons, Anish Kapoor, Nathalie Djurberg are among its previous collaborators. However, The Temple could be seen as unique because of the immersive, astral quality inherent to af Klint’s work – in particular deriving from her use of spirals, nature and the cosmic. “We have emphasised af Klint’s obsession with the logarithmic spiral,” Acute Art’s Daniel Birnbaum tells It’s Nice That. “The spirals are everywhere in her paintings and in nature too, in sunflowers and in the milky way.”

Acute Art: The Temple (Copyright © Stolpe Publishing / Acute Art, 2022)

The use of VR also offers an opportunity to explore af Klint’s dream of a temple. As Daniel points out: “Of course, no one knows what the temple would have looked like.” VR allows The Temple to lean into the imagined aspect of the structure, rather than pull away from it.

“Was it really a physical building she had in mind? Or was it a spiritual site – something existing in another dimension? Perhaps her temple, spiritual and physical at once, could not be realised because she did not have access to the right medium.” That, Daniel continues to explain, “is our slight crazy idea”. Finally, the right medium has arrived in VR. “The temple is everywhere and nowhere. It is visually overwhelming, yet not really real.” In the exhibition, the building can be interpreted as anything from an actual space, to something “alive” and to “a gigantic lotus flower”, Daniel says.

Olly Bengough, Koko CEO and creative director, states: “When I was planning the future of Koko I wanted to disrupt what modern cultural institutions have to offer in London.” For the instiution, part of this meant celebrating “the future of art, design and digital tech by supporting artists like Hilma AF Klint who has such an extraordinary legacy,” with works like The Temple.

Readers looking to experience The Temple firsthand can do so for free from 10-13 October, with Koko’s site now open for bookings. The Temple is released by Stolpe Publishing in collaboration with Axel and Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation for Public Benefit.

GalleryAcute Art: The Temple (Copyright © Stolpe Publishing / Acute Art, 2022)

Acute Art: The Temple (Copyright © Stolpe Publishing / Acute Art, 2022)

Acute Art: The Temple (Copyright © Stolpe Publishing / Acute Art, 2022)

Acute Art: The Temple (Copyright © Stolpe Publishing / Acute Art, 2022)

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Acute Art: The Temple (Copyright © Stolpe Publishing / Acute Art, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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