Lawrence Lek uses video game software to imagine a future in which the Royal Academy of Arts in London has been sold off as a privately owned luxury estate. This site-specific simulation, created for the Dazed Emerging Artist Award exhibition at the RA, is accompanied by a soundtrack by virtuoso cellist Oliver Coates and a voiceover of a found text from Russian Tatler magazine, translated into Mandarin by Joni Zhu.
The project forms Chapter 9 of Bonus Levels, a series of critical virtual worlds based on real places. This time, Lek explores the language of high-end property branding and the complex relationship between luxury, desire, and excess.
Exhibition runs from Saturday 18 April to Sunday 17 May
Burlington Gardens Gallery
Royal Academy of Arts
6 Burlington Gardens
Converse x Dazed Emerging Artist Award 2015
Tamsin Snow & Sarah Tynan
Helicopters swoop on the penthouse helipad of a vast neo-classical complex. In the grounds, Anish Kapoor sculptures glint with dancing shards of light from a swimming pool lit by neon LEDs. Heat rises and cools in the summer air, condensing into mist and teasing the intrasingent line of the laser perimeter alarm encircling an oligarch, a business tycoon, a collector…
The Royal Academy’s high-vaulted ceilings, ornate plasterwork and Corinthian columns standing sentry over wide empty porticos are a shared architecture of the super-rich. It is this reality Lawrence Lek would have us enter as he keenly observes the vulnerable position these attractive features place the institution in, its design and prestigious art-world credentials exploited as sales tactics. The RA itself is on a rental contract, and set against the backdrop of London's current housing crisis, Lek leverages this crack in the facade of dominance and timelessness associated with the nation's most revered art establishment.
Text by Susanna Davies-Crook
Lawrence Lek explores the uncanny experience of simulated presence through hardware, software, installation, and performance. His interactive virtual environments have been presented in countries including Australia, Hungary and China and his work has been hosted by the V&A, SPACE, Barbican, Art Licks, the Delfina Foundation, and he is currently a resident artist at The White Building in Hackney Wick. This virtual simulation of the Royal Academy, based on surveyors’ drawings as well as found text from Russian Tatler (translated into Mandarin and subtitled in English), invites the participant to a multilingual conjuring of the building’s potential future as repurposed by high-end estate agents.