Now Open: Greater Toronto Art 2024, March 22–July 28.

Deniz Tortum & Kathryn Hamilton


July 11, 2020
–July 24, 2020

Ark by Deniz Tortum, Kathryn Hamilton / music & sound Alican Camci / commissioned by Protocinema / supported by SAHA + 601artspace.

For the newest installment of Shift Key, MOCA has partnered with Protocinema to share a recent work by Deniz Tortum and Kathryn Hamilton.

ARK (2020) is a two-channel video on the development of virtual reality against the ongoing collapse of the environment. It explores the nascent 3D archive of objects and how virtual reality technology stands in for and distracts from loss and absence in the physical world.

Adolfo Bioy Casares’ 1940 novella Invention of Morel, features a device that can perfectly capture life—at a cost. Anything captured by the device is infinitely replayed as a hologram but destroyed in the real world. In another approach to simulation, Elon Musk has said: “The odds that we are in base reality is one in billions”. He refers to an idea popular amongst technologists and entrepreneurs: the simulation hypothesis, which argues that we live in an artificial simulation rather than in reality. Enthusiasm for this hypothesis may be explained by the nihilism of our current trajectory. This belief offers solace against paralysis: as we bring our world to ecological catastrophe, we terminate only one of infinite “simulations”.

Recommended Age: Grade 9 and up

  • How does this work make you feel?
  • Why do you think the work is titled ARK?
  • The film’s images and narration draw connections between developments in virtual reality technology and the increasing collapse of the environment.
    • How might this give you a new perspective on the urgency of our current climate crisis?      
  • Can you think of some ways in which the development of virtual reality has affected our lives, specifically within accessibility and education? 
  • At 8:42 and again at 10:38 we see a clip of someone tapping on the palm of a hand as if it were a touch screen.
    • What do you think this image signifies?
  • Towards the end of the work, we learn that the virtual reality headset created by Ivan Sutherland in 1968 was nicknamed “The Sword of Damocles,” and the narrator proceeds to explain the legend behind that phrase.
    • Why do you think the headset was originally called that in 1968, and how does that nickname take on an entirely different meaning in our present world?

Past Shift Key Programmes

A still from Cecilia Vicuña "Paracas" (1983)
Cecilia Vicuña
A Still from Cauleen Smith "Pilgrim" (2017)
Cauleen Smith
Mona Hatoum
Aura Satz
Preemptive Listening (Part 1: The Fork in the Road)