Featured Artist: Marcus Dyer and Pilar Cortés for Threshold Festival

Marcus Dyer and Pilar Cortés
Interview, Patrick Kirk-Smith

Threshold Festival 2017 promises its usual explosion of art and music this weekend with its overwhelming events programme filling the Baltic Triangle with culture for the whole weekend. One of the most exciting additions is a Virtual Reality & Landscape Painting mashup by collaborative duo, Marcus Dyer and Pilar Cortés – Versimilitude.

We’ve taken it upon ourselves to track down some of the most exciting artists behind some of the most intriguing projects for Threshold this year, so over the next week we’ll be sharing their thoughts on these must see works. This project takes one of the most traditional art forms and forces it into a space with one of the newest. It’s a brilliant response to the Threshold Festival theme of Light & Dark this year.

We thought we’d catch up with the artists behind this incredible installation and help shed a little light on one of the headline exhibitions of the weekend:

What brought the two of you together?

Pilar and I are married. We first started emailing when I was in my final year studying Sound Technology at LIPA and Pilar was studying Visual Arts at UNAM, Mexico City, back in 2005. We now share a studio space in Stokes Croft, Bristol, where we work both on our own projects and collaborative pieces such as this.

At the beginning of our relationship we found shared aesthetic values drove much of our work. We also wanted to find a way to bridge our skills and interests, allowing us to work on a series of projects together for our mutual benefit.

Worried about the impact of digital technologies on visual arts, Pilar wanted to find a way of presenting her work which broke out of the constraints of the frame. This began with me creating generative music and sound installations to exhibit alongside her paintings, progressing later to video and VR work.

Your two disciplines don’t have an immediately obvious connection… How has it been, finding a way to collaborate between virtual reality and oil painting?

I think it is more down to convention (art vs science/tech dogma, etc…) that these disciplines are seen as separate. Stereoscopic and VR artworks have been created many times before, but it’s only in recent years VR has become powerful enough to create a satisfactory experience, thanks in part to smartphones with hi-resolution screens and gyroscopic sensors.

We have a society & media which is often somewhat disparaging towards musicians and artists, despite being enthralled by them…  There are many who do not otherwise consciously engage with art, yet spend hours on a console, exposing themselves to highly creative multimedia/gaming experiences.

When devising the VR element, I was interested in the unique quality using Pilar’s oil paintings as source images and textures would lend to the work. Likewise, I wanted to use sound and music to create a mood appropriate to the tone of the paintings, creating a virtual environment which was as un-gamelike as possible; something less ‘Call of Duty’, and more “…Goréckian deathscape…” (https://misfitcity.org/tag/theskyisthinaspaperhere-marcus-dyer/) .

What do you hope viewers take away from your installation?

We seek to challenge traditional notions of authenticity, creating overwhelming, unexpectedly emotional environments through brazen technological artifice.

We want audiences to engage with painting in a different way and see it as a medium where they can be active participants, rather than passive observers. We hope the VR installation draws attention back to the paintings themselves, showing that landscape painting is equally engaging and immersive.

How can we see your work during the festival?

Our installation be on display at Unit 51, Baltic Creative throughout Threshold Festival.

It will consist of a polyptych of nine paintings by Pilar Cortés and an updated version of the second of the two VR pieces linked below. The work is soundtracked by generatively composed music and multichannel 360 degree surround sound design, both in the gallery space and virtual environment.

For more information on the piece in it’s previous iterations, please see: