The Fourth Wall

A virtual reality experience by artist John M Walter

as part of 131st Annual Exhibition of the Paisley Art Institute

Unit 43a+54, The Piazza, Paisley PA1 2EL

7 September – 20 October 2019

Tue-Sat 11.30am-5.30pm & Sun 12noon-5pm

The Fourth Wall by John Walter is a 360° immersive video exhibited in Virtual Reality. His first VR work, it builds on his experience of working in video, animation, computer-aided design, collage, painting and sculpture but abbreviates these approaches into a completely new kind of maximalist aesthetic by compressing and hybridising them. 

The extraordinary Marischal College in Aberdeen is the setting for The Fourth Wall. It features within the composition, recurring as a leitmotif that changes scale and character over time much like a melody varies within a song. Images and slogans from John’s repertoire are conjoined in a kind of “complex adaptive system” of saturated colour that creates a dizzying immersive experience. It’s like being inside a painting rather than other VR experience, which draw on gaming and architectural aesthetics. New songs, such as Heirloom Carrot, written and performed by the artist, link the diverse images and ideas within the VR composition together and reflect on Walter’s ongoing interest in how evolutionary virology can be used to think about the spread of cultural forms such as the paisley pattern (buta). 

The Fourth Wall innovates how VR is exhibited. Walter has customised cable-free Oculus Go headsets by mounting masks on them transforming viewers into performers as well. Chaperones wear colourful tabards that feature images from the VR and host viewers who may or may not be familiar with VR – bridging the gap between the fictional world of the VR and the real world outside of it. 

Walter says of The Fourth Wall “I’ve left it raw to make it more visceral and more like being inside a video, a painting or a collage. Video wipes, fades and transitions wrap around you. Rapid shifts in scale and texture that might be familiar on a screen are unusual and fresh when experienced in VR. How often have you had the opportunity to fly through a paisley shawl?”

Artist’s biography.

John Walter (b. Dartford, 1978) is a visual artist working across a diverse range of media including painting, moving image and installation. He studied at Chelsea School of Art and Design, The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, The Slade School of Fine Art and was awarded a doctorate by The University of Westminster in 2017. In 2006 he was artist in residence at KIAC in Dawson City, Canada. Between 2006-8 he was Sainsbury Scholar at The British School at Rome. He was a participant in Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2012. In 2017 he undertook a residency at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England have supported his work. He was awarded the 2016 Hayward Curatorial Open for Shonky: The Aesthetics of Awkwardness. The Arts Council Collection and The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool have collected his work. Recent exhibitions include: The Fourth Wall (Look Again Festival, Aberdeen, 2019); Booze Guitar (Matt’s Gallery, 2018); CAPSID (CGP and HOME, 2018); Somewhere in Between (Wellcome Collection, 2018); Coming Out: Sexuality, Gender and Identity (Walker Art Gallery, 2017).

Supported by Outspoken Arts Scotland and PAI.