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Mat Collishaw’s VR artwork at Somerset House will restage the world’s first photography show


Mat Collishaw: Thresholds

Artist Mat Collishaw will exhibit a new virtual reality artwork, restaging the world’s first major exhibition of photography from 1839.

Somerset House and Photo London, in partnership with BlainSouthern, will present Thresholds which will run at Somerset House’s River Rooms from 18 May – 11 June. The exhibition will travel to Birmingham, Wiltshire and Bradford.

Making use of innovative, fully-immersive VR technology, Mat Collishaw will take viewers on a “time-travelling virtual journey” back to 1839, when scientist William Henry Fox Talbot exhibited his photographic prints at the King Edward School, Birmingham in what became the world’s first major photography show.

Visitors to Thresholds will be able to touch vitrines, fixtures and mouldings in the reconstructed room, experience the heat from a coal fire and listen to a soundscape made by Collishaw featuring rioting Chartists who protested in Birmingham in 1839. Avatars will give visitors the experience of journeying through time.

The artist commented “I have been looking to work with virtual reality for a number of years and I’m delighted that it has now become a feasible medium for me to use in an artwork. VR’s ability to enable visitors to revisit the birth of photography – a medium that has come to saturate our lives – is uncanny and compelling. It’s also quite appropriate as VR is the total 360 immersion of the viewer within an image, and is itself one of the many innovations spawned by the invention of photography."


Courtesy National Media Museum Bradford