Changing face of modern art

LIVING WORK: Canadian artist Philip Beesley, left, installing his new work, Hylozoic Series Vesica in the City Gallery with collaborator Jonathan Tyrell.
LIVING WORK: Canadian artist Philip Beesley, left, installing his new work, Hylozoic Series Vesica in the City Gallery with collaborator Jonathan Tyrell.

Great art always makes an impact on its audience. Now, at the City Gallery's new installation Vesica, the audience will be the ones to impact the art.

Canadian artist Philip Beesley's latest work, which opens today, reacts to people's presence, responding with movement, light and sound.

It is constructed from an intricate web of transparent acrylic links and 400,000 digitally fabricated components fitted with sensors and microprocessors.

The work has been described as "passing through some kind of living creature".

While it may have the look of an enchanted forest, the piece, sponsored by Victoria University, offers an experimental glimpse of the architecture of the future.

Buildings of the future will be a form of life themselves – as well as being a structure, they will react to human presence, breathe, filter out chemicals, and even take care of the environment, says Beesley, a University of Waterloo professor of architecture.

His installation, which combines engineering, industrial design and even artificial life chemistry, is a very early prototype of this idea.

His design group Philip Beesley Architect Incorporated has been pushing the boundaries of the idea for five years through its series Hylozoic, which has shown in Mexico and Venice.

"That's where we really enjoy working – in the space between possibility and reality.

"This work is quite an important one for us because it thoroughly reworked and reinvented a number of systems for us."

Gallery curator Lily Hacking is delighted to welcome the work to the Hirschfield Gallery.

Even during the set up, people have reacted to it with reverence, she says.

"When you enter into that dark space, there is this idea of passing into some kind of divine space."

Victoria University design students have been collaborating with Beesley's design group on the project.

The City Gallery exhibition came out of Beesley's role as keynote speaker at this month's DeSForM 2012 conference, hosted by Victoria University's School of Design.

The conference is celebrating developments in New Zealand's digital creative sector.

Beesley says he is impressed with the standard of design at Victoria, which he rates of outstanding international quality.

Vesica is showing at the City Gallery Wellington, Civic Square, until June 10. Entry is free.

The Dominion Post