Janet Cardiff and
George Bures Miller:
The Paradise Institute
In addition to their solo art practices, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller have collaborated on a number of projects that investigate perception and immersive environments. The Paradise Institute is one of their most ambitious and complex works to date, exploring the psychological effects of cinema.
From the outside, the installation’s plywood structure looks plain and unassuming. Inside, however, visitors enter what appears to be a large 1930s-style movie house, complete with plush velvet seating. Seventeen viewers can be seated for each 13-minute screening, with individual sets of headphones that transmit unnerving directional sounds. This highly convincing audio component aims to trigger emotional and physical reactions, which in turn affect visual perception. On screen, a dark and mysterious narrative develops and begins to blend with events taking place in the theatre, building into a dramatic crescendo.
By immersing viewers in a simulated environment, Cardiff and Bures Miller engage both the tradition of realistic trompe l’oeil (“to fool the eye”) painting, and more contemporary illusionistic technologies such as virtual reality. How do we separate our lived experiences and memories from those we absorb from images? Is the boundary between reality and entertainment more flexible than we think? Though it has been over a decade since The Paradise Institute was first exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2001, in many ways the work is more relevant than ever, as an increasingly screen-based culture draws people deeper into a fragmented, media-saturated existence.
Janet Cardiff (1957, Brussels, Canada) and George Bures Miller (1960, Vegreville, Canada) live and work together in Berlin and Grindrod, Canada. They have been collaborating on multi-media projects since the early 1990s. Solo exhibitions of their work have been held at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; and Whitechapel Art Gallery, London. In 2001 they represented Canada at the 49th Venice Biennale, winning the Golden Lion Award for The Paradise Institute.
This exhibition is funded by Leadership Circle gifts supporting inaugural year programs and exhibitions.