Published on 07 December, 2023
The South Australian Museum will become a gateway to the 180-million-year-old Daintree rainforest when award-winning immersive experience GONDWANA VR: The Exhibition opens in December ahead of the 2024 Adelaide Festival.
The Museum together with GONDWANA VR’s creators Ben Joseph Andrews and Emma Roberts present a world-first multi-sensory installation to accompany the virtual reality experience’s South Australian premiere. Distilling 100 years of climate data into a single day, GONDWANA VR is a unique meditation on one of Australia’s richest ecosystems – home to a staggering proportion of Australia’s bird, mammal, butterfly and fern species despite occupying just 0.1% of its landmass – that invites visitors to become lost in lush foliage, light-streaked canopies, and a forest floor teeming with life.
Fresh from screenings at SXSW, Sundance Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival and CPH:DOX in Copenhagen, GONDWANA VR’s unique open-play environment can be experienced through VR headsets that transport the user into an interactive digital recreation of the World Heritage site, encountering weather, seasons and biodiversity shifts as they navigate a vast map of ancient trees, rugged mountains, and idyllic beaches populated by rare birdlife.
With twin-tier ticketing, visitors can choose to slip on the VR headset and roam the digital forest, or simply explore the physical exhibition space – a tranquil experiment in multi-sensory place-making that expands the VR experience out of the headset with projection, lighting, and cinematic sound.
Inspired by five months of research spent off-grid and on the ground in the Daintree and surrounding Wet Tropics, Andrews and Roberts said GONDWANA VR aimed to allow audiences to reconnect with the power of being immersed in a wild and ancient place.
“To be entangled within the dynamic flux of the Daintree’s living, breathing nature is to put the human perspective into proportionate scale,” Ben and Emma said. “In the rainforest, we understood how small we really are: organisms floating inside the lungs of something infinitely larger. Time collapses in on itself, its cycles moving a few rings wider than normal.
“This is something we wanted to capture and communicate with this experience, especially for those who might not have the chance to visit the Wet Tropics for themselves.”
With each cycle showing different possible futures for the forest informed by climate projections up to the year 2090, GONDWANA VR draws the user into a broader narrative that stirs below: the forest is deteriorating, and whether it survives or thrives hinges on how we interact with it. Do we ignore the effects of global heating on this haven of biodiversity, and let it bleach and wither? Or do we recognize the huge impacts our actions can have on our most irreplaceable ecological treasures?
Dr David Gaimster, South Australian Museum Chief Executive, said GONDWANA VR offered a fresh model for putting Museum visitors in touch with the natural world.
“Drawing on data, science, and digital storytelling, GONDWANA VR is a timely portrait of a paradise imperilled by humanity’s impact. After enthralling audiences around the world, we can’t wait to bring Ben and Emma’s vision to Adelaide.”
As part of Adelaide Festival 2023, from 8-10 March the Museum will also present an extended 48-hour cycle of GONDWANA VR, with this special overnight showing allowing visitors to fully experience the impact of Andrews and Roberts’ vision, alongside a full weekend of public programming to be announced in 2024.
Arts Minister Andrea Michaels said GONDWANA VR: The Exhibition promises to be an exciting event for South Australian audiences and visitors alike.
“South Australians love their Museum, and after a blockbuster year, this latest exhibition offers a new and engaging mix of art, innovation, and discovery in the heart of Adelaide’s cultural precinct. I look forward to slipping on a VR headset and experiencing what is sure to be a must-see attraction this summer.”
“A jaw-dropping feat”
- The Guardian
“A love letter to the Daintree, but also a warning about its fragility.”
- The Australian