We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of New South Wales stands.

Adrián Villar Rojas The End of Imagination

Several large sculptural forms in a very dark room with columns

Installation view of Adrián Villar Rojas The End of Imagination 2022 in the Tank at the Art Gallery of New South Wales © Adrián Villar Rojas, photo © Jörg Baumann

Roving lights discover time-travelling sculptural forms in the subterranean darkness of the Tank.

Adrián Villar Rojas The End of Imagination

3 December 2022 – mid 2023

Art Gallery of New South Wales

North Building

Lower level 4, The Tank

🛈 Find out what you need to know before visiting

Free, timed-entry tickets are required to visit this exhibition. Available in person at the Art Gallery, or book in advance online.

This space is dark with moving and flashing lights, large objects, and noise; it is a high-sensory experience. Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

Adrián Villar Rojas (Rosario, Argentina, b1980) creates collaboratively produced, ever-evolving, site-specific environmental projects that are both imposing and fragile, often leaving scarce traces of their passage through the world due to their perishable and parasitic nature. His research and world-building explores the conditions of a humanity at risk, on the verge of extinction or already extinct, where the future, the past and alternate versions of our present interact as a constantly changing totality.

For The End of Imagination, the inaugural exhibition in the Tank, Villar Rojas takes a unique opportunity to dramatise and radicalise the experience of this former wartime oil bunker that few have seen before. Set in extreme darkness where limits are not known, a host of moving lights operate as sentient beings seeking, surveying, locating, following their own paths and patterns, changing them according to their own needs and will, not ours. Among the shadows, this collective artificial gaze uncovers conflicted objects in a space that was itself born of conflict.

These traumatised objects are the product of a sculptural experiment, a hypothesis impossible to test on the terrestrial plane. Using an amalgamation of software systems collectively described as the ‘Time Engine’, Villar Rojas generated a series of intensely detailed digital worlds and placed virtual sculptures within them.

Simulating conditions ranging from environmental to sociopolitical across timespans ranging from hours to millennia, the Time Engine poses unanswerable questions: What monuments might be created to commemorate the end of postcolonial struggles for independence on the Moon’s Sea of Clouds in the year 34,340? What would a sculpture that was left in the canyon of the Valles Marineris on Mars for 500 years look like? What is its texture, what remains of its volume? How do you model wind in 7,374,000 BCE?

As the extreme conditions of each world bore down on the sculptures, they became ever more complex and harrowed. Fires scorched them, altered gravity distorted them. Unrest toppled them, wars wounded them. Other life forms sheltered within or bloomed upon them. The artist modelled worlds, which in turn modelled the sculptures.

In late 2021, Villar Rojas and his team ‘downloaded’ these time-travelling virtual sculptures and commenced the labour of reconstituting them physically, his aim being to bring home faithfully the trials they endured on their journeys through turbulent digital worlds. Made with forensic intensity in a temporary workshop in Rosario, Argentina, where hands-on making was combined with machine intelligence, the resulting sculptures are layered composites of metals, plastics, concrete, soil, glass, salt, wax, resin, tree barks, metal, salvaged auto parts, recycled plastics, and a multitude of other organic and inorganic materials.

In this complex and provocative installation, both sculptures and the Tank itself – whose walls are stained with oil, graffiti and mineral traces – allude to all they’ve been through while opening still larger questions. Are they survivors or prophets? Should we revere or fear them? What discomforting knowledge do they bring us?

A limited-edition artist book accompanies the exhibition, which is exclusive to Sydney.

A person in a dark room with columns

Adrián Villar Rojas during a visit to the Tank in 2018

A large sculptural form in a very dark room with columns

Installation view of Adrián Villar Rojas The End of Imagination 2022 in the Tank at the Art Gallery of New South Wales © Adrián Villar Rojas, photo © Jörg Baumann

A large sculptural form in a very dark room with columns

Installation view of Adrián Villar Rojas The End of Imagination 2022 in the Tank at the Art Gallery of New South Wales © Adrián Villar Rojas, photo © Jörg Baumann

A large sculptural form on wheels in a very dark room with columns

Installation view of Adrián Villar Rojas The End of Imagination 2022 in the Tank at the Art Gallery of New South Wales © Adrián Villar Rojas, photo © Jörg Baumann

A large sculptural form in a very dark room with columns

Installation view of Adrián Villar Rojas The End of Imagination 2022 in the Tank at the Art Gallery of New South Wales © Adrián Villar Rojas, photo © Jörg Baumann

An organic sculptural form, part of which resembles tree roots

Installation view of Adrián Villar Rojas The End of Imagination 2022 in the Tank at the Art Gallery of New South Wales © Adrián Villar Rojas, photo © Jörg Baumann

A large sculptural form in a very dark room with columns

Installation view of Adrián Villar Rojas The End of Imagination 2022 in the Tank at the Art Gallery of New South Wales © Adrián Villar Rojas, photo © Jörg Baumann

An organic sculptural form in a dark space

Installation view of Adrián Villar Rojas The End of Imagination 2022 in the Tank at the Art Gallery of New South Wales © Adrián Villar Rojas, photo © Jörg Baumann

An organic sculptural form in a dark space

Installation view of Adrián Villar Rojas The End of Imagination 2022 in the Tank at the Art Gallery of New South Wales © Adrián Villar Rojas, photo © Jörg Baumann

View from live environmental simulation generated by 'Time Engine' software © Adrián Villar Rojas, 2022

View from live environmental simulation generated by 'Time Engine' software © Adrián Villar Rojas, 2022

Black-and-white photograph of the dry, rocky environment planted with various national flags

View from live environmental simulation generated by 'Time Engine' software © Adrián Villar Rojas, 2022

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