Silver and gold: Fred’s medal-winning virtual reality experience proves a hit across Europe

Silver and gold: Fred’s medal-winning virtual reality experience proves a hit across Europe

Filmmaker and academic Dr Frederick Baker’s virtual reality experience based on the work of  artist Gustav Klimt has proved immensely popular with experts and the public alike.

The experience, entitled Klimt’s Magic Garden, firstly won Fred a Silver Medal for Cinematic Virtual Reality at the European Virtual Reality Halo Awards in Amsterdam.

It was then such a hit in Klimt’s Austrian homeland that its run was extended by nearly six months, eventually being shown from February until early October in Vienna’s MAK (Museum of Applied Arts). And now it is now being staged at a leading arts centre in Brussels.

Timed to coincide with the centenary of the artist’s death this year, Klimt’s Magic Garden  was inspired by the series of three mosaics that the Art Nouveau doyen created for the Stoclet Palace, also in Brussels. To produce the experience, Fred (OE 1976–1983) used high-resolution digital photographic material to create a rich virtual paradise, shimmering with the gold which Klimt was famous for using. He created the work in dialogue with art historians at the MAK.

In Klimt’s Magic Garden, which is experienced using virtual reality headsets, everything the viewer sees originally comes from Klimt, yet it has all been given depth, movement, and natural-style lighting. The experience features a digital spatial narrative structure that reflects the themes of expectation and fulfilment Klimt explored in his work for the Stoclet Palace.

Born in Salzburg but brought up in London, Fred studied Anthropology and Archaeology at St John’s College, Cambridge, Tübingen and Sheffield universities and went on to gain a PhD from Cambridge in 2009. He now lives in Vienna and London.

He was a Producer Director for the BBC, working for the corporation from 1994 to 2006. He is the owner of the Austrian film company, Filmbäckerei, and a College Research Association at the Centre for Film and Screen Media, Wolfson College, Cambridge.

He returned to St John’s in 2014 to create a hugely atmospheric screening of the film classic, The Third Man, which became the first film ever to be mapped on to the college’s Bridge of Sighs.

A specialist in Austrian cinema, he has published extensively on The Third Man – the Carol Reed-directed film starring Orson Welles, which was set in Vienna and used a screenplay by Graham Greene, who had also written it as a novella. As well as examining the film for his doctorate, Fred made a 90-minute documentary about its making, entitled Shadowing The Third Man.

He is also the founder of Cambridge’s annual international research symposium, Picturing Austrian Cinema, and has lectured at universities in Weimar and Berlin as well as at Middlesex University. The winner of numerous awards at film festivals from Cannes to Hollywood, Fred has made acclaimed documentaries on subjects including Stalin and Rebuilding the Reichstag (about the reconstruction of the German parliament building overseen by the architect, Norman Foster).

Klimt’s Magic Garden runs at the Palais des Beaux-Arts (also known as BOZAR) in Brussels until 20th January 2019. A sample of the experience is available on YouTube.