Saint Louis University

The first St. Louis showing of an internationally exhibited Chinese artist
who uses virtual reality technology to explore Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel
masterpiece from a variety of new perspectives.

Miao exhibition logo
February 3  - May 11, 2008
     free public opening reception 
     Sunday, February 3, 3:00 - 5:00 p.m.
exhibition extended through May 18, 2008

join us for a free public lecture
by exhibition curator Wu Hung
What is Chinese Contemporary Art?

     Tuesday, April 15, 2008  7:00 p.m.
     Saint Louis Art Museum Auditorium
     One Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park

     click here for more information about the lecture

Last Judgment info sheet thumbnailDownload an informational brochure with sample images.
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A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue is available for purchase at MOCRA for $15.
General Exhibition Information
Hours: Tues - Sun, 11 am - 4 pm
Admission: free, with suggested donation of $5/adults, $1/students and children
Directions and Parking information
Group visit information

above: The Last Judgment in Cyberspace: The Side View (detail), 2006.

Miao Xiaochun - Last Judgment in Cyberspace, side view

The Last Judgment in Cyberspace:
The Side View,
Digital C-print. 94.5 x 35.5 in.

What do the figures in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment ... see at this fatal moment? To Miao Xiaochun, to answer these questions means to enter the painting and to assume the varied gazes of the painted figures.
- Wu Hung, art historian and exhibition curator

Chinese artist Miao Xiaochun asked himself an interesting question: "How would Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment appear from behind?" To explore this premise, Miao Xiaochun rendered a 3-D digital model of his own body. Then he mapped this model onto all 400-plus of the figures in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel painting, creating a virtual space according to the composition of the painting. From this virtual space he produced several large-scale digital C-print images of the scene from various vantage points, as well as a video in which the viewer "flies through" the painting. The artist describes it as "a visual and intellectual recreation of a different order--a two-dimensional representation is translated into a three-dimensional representation, a standard religious theme becomes the subject of personal speculation, a conclusion is turned into a question, a still canvas is made into active images, and an ancient work is taken as the site of a contemporary discourse."

Curator and art historian Wu Hung describes The Last Judgment in Cyberspace as a re-representation of an existing work of art. Contemporary digital and video technology allows contemporary artists to reflect upon and respond to earlier art forms, transforming paintings and sculptures into animated images with enhanced visual immediacy. Miao Xiaochun’s approach enables the viewer to enter Michelangelo’s painting as a participant, and allows one to adopt otherwise impossible viewing angles. This allows for imaginative play: what is the experience of judgment from the point of view of one of the blessed, or one of the damned, or one of the heavenly cohort? Furthermore, new critical perspectives are introduced, both of Michelangelo’s painting, and of the questions about ultimate meaning it raises. Miao Xiaochun becomes all of the characters—the divine, the demonic, the saved, and the damned. The repeated use of the same model "automatically abandons the distinctions between high and low, left and right, good and evil, honorable and humble, east and west, ancient and modern," according to the artist. Miao Xiaochun leaves the figures in his "re-representation" in a relatively rough state, with an almost marble-like appearance. The C-prints and the video blend qualities of cutting-edge technology with sublime and apocalyptic imagery.

The Last Judgment in Cyberspace has been exhibited in Beijing, Berlin, and Chicago. MOCRA is only the second American venue for this pioneering work. MOCRA is grateful to the Walsh Gallery, Chicago, for its assistance in bringing this exhibition to St. Louis.

About the artist

Miao Xiaochun was born in Wuxi, Jiangsu, China in 1964. He has been featured in solo and group exhibitions worldwide, including shows in China, Korea, Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Presently he teaches in the Photography and Digital Media Department at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.

About the curator
Wu Hung is the Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Chinese Art History at the University of Chicago, and Consulting Curator at the Smart Museum. His research interests include both traditional and contemporary fields and he has published several books in addition to numerous catalogue essays. He has curated major exhibitions of contemporary Chinese art.

Miao Xiaochun - Last Judgment in Cyberspace, front view

The Last Judgment in Cyberspace:
The Front View,
Digital C-print. 94 x 81.25 in.

Additional links
  • The Last Judgment in Cyberspace in the media
  • Miao Xiaochun at Walsh Gallery, Chicago
  • Sistine Chapel virtual tour