Press Release

Fantastical Environment in Immersive Multimedia Installation at Nelson-Atkins

Kansas City, MO
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World Premiere of Artist Saya Woolfalk Creation Opens March 1

Visitors to The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City will be transported to a fantastical world created by artist Saya Woolfalk when they experience Saya Woolfalk: Expedition to the ChimaCloud, an immersive, multimedia exhibition created for the Nelson-Atkins that opens March 1. Expedition to the ChimaCloud incorporates cultural hybridization, technology, identity, spiritual rituals, and science fiction to continue the extensive narrative of a fictional race of half-plant, half female beings created by Woolfalk called the Empathics.

“This exhibition blends science fiction and fantasy to re-imagine the world in multiple dimensions,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO & Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “The utopian world created by Saya Woolfalk challenges us to explore hybridity and Afrofuturism in our increasingly multi-cultural society.”

Multiple interrelated works will tell the story of the ChimaCloud, an alternate digital universe created by the Empathics. For this installation, Woolfalk drew her inspiration directly from the Nelson-Atkins permanent collection, particularly the renowned Chinese collection.

“Saya Woolfalk’s work is a hybrid of immersive experiences and a rich utopian narrative that encourages visitors to open their minds to new possibilities and futures,” said Sarah Biggerstaff, who curated the exhibition.

Expedition to the ChimaCloud tells the story of the ChimaCloud, an alternate digital universe discovered by the fictional corporation ChimaTEK. In the gallery, the Empathics will demonstrate various functions of the ChimaCloud, most importantly how it is accessed using custom liminality headdresses built with 3D printed objects, colorful ceramic disks, and metal mandalas. Projections of confetti-like bursts of color that morph into digital versions of the liminality headdress knit the various components of the ChimaCloud together. Through a combination of projection, textiles, sculpture, ceramics, metalwork, painting, plexi, and ambient sound, Woolfalk will bring the Empathics and the ChimaCloud to life at the Nelson-Atkins.

“One of the first things I always hope to do is have people feel a little bit dislocated,” said Woolfalk. “And I hope what happens when they’re somewhat dislocated and unclear of where they are that they become open, and that sense of openness stays with them and they bring it into their everyday lives.”

Special programs related to this exhibition include a talk by Saya Woolfalk in Atkins Auditorium at on Thursday, May 9. Exhibition curator Sarah Biggerstaff will give two talks Friday, March 5 at 6:30 and 7 p.m., and the Afrofuturist film Hello Rain will be screened Saturday, May 11 at 1 p.m.

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Saya Woolfalk, ChimaTEK: Virtual Chimeric Space, 2015-2016. Multi-media installation, 15 x 25 x 5 feet. Projection: 3:59 minutes. Seattle Art Museum. Photo: Nathaniel Willson.

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