Through the multiverse

By Steph Jones

The bigger the better, the more the merrier, that is what the multi-disciplinary artist and set designer, Lydia Chan strives for in her maximalist creations of fantasy worlds. Grab your closest portal gun or spaceship of choice and take a trip through the multiverse, to Now Gallery at Greenwich Peninsula to check out the new installation, Your Ship Has Landed. Once inside you will be transported to a new world of colourful creatures and nonsensical chaos, becoming emersed in Chan’s surrealist vision.  

Photos by Charles Emerson

Walking up to the curved glass front of NOW Gallery, swirling blobs of vibrant matter spill out the doors floating off into the air. Reflected in the glass, a mighty UFO fills the sky, with a white domed roof and yellow antennae which now move to form a point, producing a blinding ball of light. The ship lifts off the ground causing the surrounding area to turn into a wind tunnel. The gallery beckons you in, with oxygen supply fitted and gravity boots on you stomp towards the entrance. 

Once inside, you feel as though you are being watched, hundreds of pocket-size pink puff balls stare up at you from the floor, beady-eyed and blinking. Rising from the crowd, trunk-like creatures shoot up into the rafters, spying from above, around them, floating rock formations and swirling clouds of coloured dust. You rest here for a while content with your new alien acquaintances and surrounded by peculiar jelly-like shrubbery.  After the winds have died down you return to the streets of London almost as nothing happened but with remanence of this peculiar world following you home.

With the ever-growing influence of digital media within society combined with our drive to get back out into the world after so long at home, Your Ship Has Landed is the perfect, free immersive experience to bridge the gap between the digital and physical dimensions. Collaborating with digital artists Songyee Kim and Thibault Evrard to make accompanying AR Instagram filters, we are zapped into the digital realm. Deep underwater or up in space, this vibrant wonderland is packed with stimulating structures to open our minds to fantasy inspired by the natural world.  

With talks of a metaverse replacing what we currently know as the internet, online spaces will be changing to become more immersive, using VR headsets or avatars in a simulation may become the norm. The fashion and art world riding this wave and embracing the possibilities of ever-developing technologies, with accessible forms of virtual spaces such as the Your Ship Has Landed Instagram filters, taking off. Brands such as Balenciaga have used the idea of virtual worlds in recent shows with their Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow concept, a game-like trail to display their A/W21 collection. Digi-Couture has also become a reality with influencers sporting one-off rendered outfits only existing in the digital realm. To a lot of us, it is hard to see how these technologies will have longevity after the novelty has worn off but there are real-world applications that are helping to improve life on earth. From software used to create clothing samples to reduce waste, education programmes for doctors and rewilding mapping to support and track the growth of our natural landscape, the applications of these technologies are endless.

Photo by Charles Emerson

Lydia Chan is a young set designer who has recently worked on a wacky shop takeover at Stella McCartney as well as creating sets for brands such as Gucci, Supreme and Vivienne Westwood as well as musicians like Jorja Smith, Slowthai and Griff. Her work usually centres around world creation, with an arts and crafts aesthetic, she creates warped perceptions of reality perfect for human interaction in music videos or shop floors. She also creates beaded sculptures, inspired by an acrylic bead kit she used as a child as well as a trip to Hong Kong, which can be worn as jewellery, bringing the sparkly creatures to life as the wearer moves. 

The installation at Now Gallery launched on the 18th of November with performances by Chester Hayes and a DJ set by Milk Shandy, costumed by Ed Curtis, the night encouraged creative collaboration combining performance and visual art in a social setting. Open to the public until the 6th of March 2022 the psychedelic dreamworld is free to attend, adding to the list of exhibitions by various creatives that have been held at the gallery. 

To find out more about Lydia Chan’s new installation at NOW Gallery at here

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