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The Rules Do Not Apply

At the start of 2021, during the Covid-19 pandemic, National Gallery X and Audience Labs at the Royal Opera House commissioned three boundary-stretching digital artworks that responded to the new realities of our rapidly changing world.

What happens when we create opportunities for underrepresented creatives to make work in response to artworks from the National Gallery and Royal Opera House and reflect on the new realities of living in a pandemic?

Inspired by the immense uncertainty and flux that is a feature of life in a pandemic, National Gallery X and Audience Labs by the Royal Opera House were keen to investigate how the Covid-19 pandemic could be a catalyst for reflection and change.

We put a call out for artists to imaginatively respond to our ‘new normal’ taking as their inspiration two works of art that reimagine and disrupt structures of power and play with the unexpected. We encouraged applications from artists who identify as a Person of Colour, D/disabled and/or a member of LGBTQIA+ community as we wanted to actively support artists from communities currently underrepresented in our commission awards

From the proposals we received, we commissioned three artists to create a new artwork. Each artist or collective was awarded £4,000 and received bespoke coaching from Audience Labs at the Royal Opera House, National Gallery X, and technical mentorship from Google Creative Lab to produce the micro‐commission.

About the project

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The three artists commissioned

  • Dennis Osadebe | a Nigerian mixed‐media artist best known for his contemporary vibrant post‐pop style
  • Fantasia Malware | a collective that makes fantastical, magical, corrupt, chaotic software
  • Maf’j Alvarez | a digital media artist and creative technologist based in Brighton who creates collaborative and interactive immersive artworks

The commissions


by Dennis Osadebe

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Eva Quantica

by Maf'j Alvarez

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The Life of Saint Fiona Bianco Xena

By Fantasia Malware

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The Rules Do Not Apply open call
Find out more about the open call which closed in January 2021
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About Audience Labs at the Royal Opera House

Audience Labs at the Royal Opera House is an artist-led innovation program that brings together pioneering artists and next generation technology to create boundary-breaking contemporary opera and ballet experiences. Rooted in the Royal Opera House’s tradition of stagecraft and alive to the possibilities of immersive technologies, Audience Labs invites new and diverse audiences to experience ambitious and innovative work - wherever they are. Audience Labs works through partnerships and a diverse range of collaborators from artists to major international technology companies to government departments, museums, festivals and more. Committed to sharing learning and insight from R&D and projects and serving as a resource for the UK arts sector, Audience Labs aim to spark a dialogue around collaboration and innovation, enabling connections between cultural organisations and the technology sector and bringing together diverse creative talent, reducing barriers to entry and improving opportunity for digital adoption.

About National Gallery X (NGX)

NGX is an ambitious project at the forefront of digital innovation. Working in partnership with King's College London, we have set out to create the sorts of new museum experiences technology could make possible in ten years' time. The challenge for NGX is to create these experiences today. With a strong commitment to artistic, educational, and curatorial expertise at the National Gallery, NGX provides a space for residencies and short-term interventions from artists and thinkers to explore how technological inventions can inform new kinds of cultural experiences.