National Gallery artwork and innovative technology inspiring a more sustainable future


Families in Nottingham have helped create an innovative installation that uses digital technology to upcycle selected items from the National Gallery’s historic collection to reimagine a more sustainable future.

Ten local families have volunteered to become co-designers in a series of 6 workshops led by Roma Patel, creative director of Makers of Imaginary Worlds and writer Sam Redway at Lakeside Arts. The results were shared with partners at the University of Nottingham’s Mixed Reality Lab and digital artist Barret Hodgson, who, together with Roma and Sam, were able to incorporate the co-designers’ big ideas and bring the HOME-project to life. Zero. Funded by Nesta, this creative research and development project aims to help spark a public conversation about the relationship between household emissions and climate change.

The installation has been user-tested in London at the National Gallery‘s NGX Experimental Space and is on Lakeside from May 26-30 where entry is free, but individual time slots for each family (maximum of 6 people ) must be reserved in advance.

Each family will be greeted by an actor and their level of imagination will be checked upon arrival outside the hexagonal installation. They will be invited to enter through a refrigerator door into a magical space where 3 “walls” are large digital screens with wallpaper, photos, shopping and to-do lists, which will give them the feeling of being inside an occupied house. Gradually a door will open showing an industrial scene beyond and the voice of the house will ask if the family can help come up with new ideas to solve the problem, and the children are asked to physically increase the power and to help create some space for reflection.

One of the National Gallery exhibits on display

The walls transform to display National Gallery artwork on one screen, a blank canvas in the middle and a notebook of ideas on the third. The family can scroll through the images with a salad spinner and use old-fashioned bellows to select objects from the images that will appear as a hologram in the “ideas upcycler” platform. At this point, they will have the choice to keep it, recycle it, or cancel it before it magically appears on the blank canvas and transforms into a modern, more sustainable version of the item.

One of the family members involved in creating the installation said, “My son and I really enjoyed being part of the HOME:Zero project. We weren’t sure what to expect, but it was extremely enjoyable, fun and informative, and led by a fantastic team. It was amazing to see and hear the ideas of everyone involved and how they came together to create the final installation which is amazing. We looked forward to returning to each workshop and felt a real connection with the team and the project. We are so proud of the final installation and I really encourage people to come and see HOME:Zero, you won’t be disappointed.

“It was a fantastic experience. We really enjoyed being part of the creative process and helping to shape the project. We spent time with beautiful families and all the children should be so proud of their accomplishments.

The project is part of a new innovation programme, National Gallery X (NGX) – a partnership between the National Gallery and King’s College London, drawing on the artistic, curatorial and educational expertise of the National Gallery . An ambitious project at the forefront of digital innovation, NGX offers a space to explore new types of cultural experiences. The creators of imaginary worlds create immersive installations of mixed reality. Their work fuses emerging sensing technologies with traditional craftsmanship with the aim of creating a sense of curiosity and imaginative play in young audiences.

Makers of Imaginary World Director Dr Roma Patel said: “The process of creating this installation was truly collaborative and involving children in the process really opened up new ideas and possibilities. We’re really excited about the final piece which is a feast for the eyes, ears and imagination and we hope it sparks ideas for how people can bring sustainability into their homes and lives.

Lakeside is committed to providing inspiring creative experiences for children and families, and in HOME:Zero we had the most incredible opportunity to work collaboratively with families to truly co-design the experience visitors will have. . The results are weirdly fantastic and a lot of fun, but we also hope they’ll encourage everyone to think about what they can do as a family to help make everyone’s future more sustainable.

The Nesta Mission for a Sustainable Future aims to dramatically reduce household carbon emissions by 2030. To achieve this, we need art and creativity to inspire new behaviors and help catalyze change. Nesta’s own research shows that while 85% agree that climate change is one of the most important issues to address, only 35% have adopted or plan to adopt energy efficiency measures in their own homes.

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HOME:Zero was commissioned by Nesta and the National Gallery X (The National Gallery and King’s College London). Created in partnership with Lakeside Arts, Mixed Reality Lab, Institute for Policy and Engagement, University of Nottingham and supported by LEADD:NG, Midlands Engine, European Union

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