AORA is a collaborative virtual space and platform created by Jenn Ellis (curator) and Benni Allan (founder, EBBA Architects) aimed to instill a sense of calm and wellbeing through the curated meeting of architecture, art and sound.
At the heart is a virtual space composed of three rooms (The Hall, The Place, The Path) featuring the work of emerging to established contemporary artists who address and relate to the healing notions of meditation, landscape and environment. In each hall a bespoke, correlative piece of music by an acclaimed composer accompanies and activates the senses of sight and hearing.
Each rotating exhibition is accompanied by information on the individual artists and artworks found in ABOUT. In addition and derived from ‘agora’ there is EXCHANGE, which connects through a live programme of people from AORA’s community creating links between its core tenets of architecture, art, sound and wellbeing.
AORA derives from Ahora (meaning ‘now’ or ‘present’ in Spanish), which is the language founders Jenn and Benni share other than English. It is also closely tied to Aura (Latin for breeze/air) and Agora, which brings people together, and ties into the inspiration of the space: Domus Aurea, a vast palace built by Nero in the heart of Rome after the great fire of 64AD.
June 15 - Aug 31, 2020
Sinead Breslin, Mark Corfield-Moore, Mandy El-Sayegh (Lehmann Maupin), Gabriela Giroletti, Gabriel Hartley (Seventeen), Dashiell Manley (Marianne Boesky Gallery), Gerhard Marx (Goodman Gallery), Peter McDonald (Kate MacGarry), Jack McConville (The Modern Institute), Helen McCusker, David Murphy (Alma Zevi), Makoto Ofune (Olivier Malingue Gallery), Rade Petrasevic (Alma Zevi), Rafal Topolewski, Adia Wahid
James Layton played by Stephen Upshaw, Alexander Mills, Nico Muhly
Installation shots, AORA, space designed by Benjamin Allen, EBBA Architects; curation by Jennifer Ellis, Apsara Studio; construction by Nick Pittom, Fire Panda
AORA was launched by Jenn and Benni in June 2020. The full story, however, takes us back to 2016. In 2016, Jenn was in hospital and asked herself why there was art on the corridor walls but not the hospital rooms. She did research and found scientific evidence for the healing properties of art: alleviating pain, soothing the mind, speeding recovery periods.
In 2017 a virtual gallery pilot was funded by The University of Salford. But several important elements were missing. Firstly, Jenn found it was not enough to replicate an existing gallery in 3D and show art in it: the virtual world was mimicking the real world without being inspiring. Secondly, the art exhibited was not correlated to the soul of the problem it was seeking to alleviate: it was not healing.
In 2019 Jenn approached Benni, a serial collaborator and award-winning architect, and they revisited the idea and AORA was born. A virtual space was designed from scratch by Benni. Artwork that matched, connected and lived with the space was selected by Jenn. They consulted doctors at King’s College London, Moorfields Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital. Both invited different composers to create scores to respond to the spaces and art. They found a VR technologist, Nicholas Pittom of Fire Panda, who could articulate their vision.
As such, AORA, an immersive environment and platform, with the core properties of healing and alleviating, that is accessible to all, was created.
AORA has been created through cross-sector collaboration.
Founders: Jenn Ellis, Benni Allan
VR Technology: Nick Pittom
Web Development: Eduardo Rodriguez
Curatorial Assistant: Inji Kim
Jordan Ashley - Movement
Imogen Kwok - Food
Stephen Upshaw - Musi
Restaurant partner: Crispin, London
Advisors: Emmanuel de Carvalho, Hester Velthuis, Dahlia Al Sharif