Coventry City of Culture Trust have announce that the UK’s first permanent immersive digital art gallery, The Reel Store, has opened today, becoming a permanent new visitor attraction in the heart of the city. Following on from the huge popularity of immersive art spaces around the world, this new state-of-the-art space features innovative experiential art commissions and is now a prominent feature of the City of Culture programme.
The Reel Store is located in the former home of the Coventry Evening Telegraph newspaper, a distinctive post-war building in the heart of the city. The main 800m2 exhibition space houses a large projection mapping canvas with multiple high quality video projectors and an immersive sound system.
The opening exhibition is Machine Memoirs: Space, by internationally acclaimed artist Refik Anadol. The product of a long-term collaboration with NASA, this exhibition uses artificial intelligence (AI) to reimagine two million publicly available images of space taken by NASA satellites and telescopes, and the International Space Station, capturing the deepest regions of outer space.
Through machine learning, the computer sorts and categorizes these photographs ultimately developing an understanding of them. Then, it creates stunning new digital interpretations of space that exist only in the mind of the machine.
Machine Memoirs: Space provides a 360 degree cinematic experience of rich and futuristic visuals accompanied by 3D audio, allowing audiences to encounter the beauty and spectacle of space science, created entirely through AI. Refik Anadol is a pioneer in the aesthetics of data and machine intelligence. His work intersects at the crossroads of art, science, and technology.
He uses cutting-edge technology and big data advancements to creatively speak to the most pressing challenges of our time, and what it means to be a human in the age of machines. Refik Anadol’s projects have been shown in over 50 cities, spanning six continents, and experienced by millions of fans. In 2021 alone work has been exhibited at Art Basel Miami Beach, COP26 in Glasgow, ARTECHOUSE in New York, Abu Dhabi, China, Japan and South Korea, as well as major cities across Europe including Istanbul, Milan and Venice.
Refik Anadol, said: “Machine Memoirs: Space invites us to dream of an alternative universe where machines collaborate with humans to speculate our existence and create an alternative future.
“This is a hopeful future where machines and humanity, in combination, are agents for healing. A collaborative relationship with machines can give us new insights, knowledge and the power to not only dream, but create a better world.”
Chief Executive of Coventry City of Culture Trust, Martin Sutherland, said: “The Reel Store is a hugely exciting venture, with Coventry becoming home to the UK’s only permanent truly immersive digital art gallery, a major draw for Coventrians and visitors. We are delighted that our partners have backed the vision for this permanent new visitor attraction, transforming old media into new media, as part of the legacy of our year as UK City of Culture.”
Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “Having experienced some truly magical immersive art shows in Tokyo, Paris and London, I am delighted that Coventry, a youthful and pioneering city is launching The Reel Store with Machine Memoirs – a new way to experience the wonder of art. Right now, Refik Anadol is leading the way in this field and we are proud and excited to be collaborating to deliver his first long running UK show.
“In 2021 Coventry has hosted the Turner Prize, the world’s leading art prize. In 2022 Refik Anadol and Machine Memoirs will truly cement Coventry’s status as a major destination for groundbreaking visual arts experiences.”
Arts Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said: "Coventry's year as UK City of Culture is an excellent demonstration of the power of the arts in enhancing and enriching communities.
“Coventry's programme is making a real difference – and The Reel Store, a new immersive digital art gallery in the heart of the city, will help to make sure that it leaves a lasting legacy. As the first of its kind in the UK, I am sure that this exciting gallery will be a hit with visitors, and I can't wait to see it for myself."
Councillor David Welsh, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Arts at Coventry City Council, said: “The digital gallery will be a great addition to the city’s cultural offer. We are investing in many cultural assets in the city, bringing in more than £40m of funding, and I can’t wait to visit it when it opens.
The key for me is that although we know it will be a fabulous attraction for visitors, all of our communities in Coventry will also have a completely unique arts venue on their doorstep. The fact that it is located in a building that housed the Telegraph newspaper for 50 years makes it the perfect location – highlighting the shift from print to digital media.”
Chair of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Sarah Windrum, said: “Leading innovation is one of the key priorities of CWLEP’s Strategic Reset Framework and this fascinating digital art gallery initiative emphasises our area’s strengths in the creative sector. The Getting Building Fund was set-up for projects which would immediately make a difference and this will help to attract visitors from across the UK and boost our economy.”
The Reel Store has been made possible by the generous support of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Coventry City Council via the Council’s Cultural Capital Investment Fund, the Government’s Getting Building Fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), The Patrick Trust, The Linbury Trust, Edward Cadbury Charitable Trust and Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce.