The world has been altered. There are no longer any ordinary things.
These words will be printed at the entrance to the Strangely Familiar gallery, the last section of Te Papa's Surrealist Art exhibition to open next month.
Visitors will leave the exhibition with a unique delight - an immersive installation inspired by Rene Magritte's 1937 "Not to be reproduced", a provocative work featuring a man staring into a mirror that reflects the back of his own head.
The minds of about half a dozen people over six months have reproduced Magritte's work, allowing the viewer a rare opportunity to climb inside the frame and be the artwork themselves.
The idea for Magritte's mirror came from the museum's Digital Producer Prue Donald, who has previously worked on content such as the larger-than-life Gallipoli exhibition, as well as the museum's immersive audio guides.
Developing the concept from October 2020, Donald was enchanted by the idea of recreating "Not to be reproduced", the title of which was almost a challenge.
They knew they needed to draw the viewer into the painting, but were challenged by the logistics of getting that perfect shot - complete with the right book at the bottom right of the frame.
Software engineer Tom Moynihan had been one of the key brains behind bringing Donald's concept to life.
"Ninety-five per cent of the work was the five per cent we just couldn't quite get right," he said.
"Little things like reflections bouncing off your shoulder, where the focus should be, where do you exactly have to stand to get the perfect moment."
"Little things like that, we did spend weeks thinking about."
While some Surrealist art can be considered strange or confronting – think Salvador Dali's dripping clocks – the immersive installation located at the end of the exhibition instead reflects the playfulness of Magritte's work.
"By the time you get to Magritte, it is provocative but there's a charming-ness about it, and that sense of fun and lightness of being," Donald said.
"Giving our visitors something quite delightful at the end of the exhibition feels really good."
Donald said Magritte's Mirror was uncanny in a similar way to some of his previous works, such as the perhaps more famous "This is not a pipe" ("Ceci n'est pas une pipe").
Moynihan said the installation was "in a class of its own".
"It's not really a mirror, it's not a painting, it's something else ... you do feel like you're interacting with something strange and unique."
The few who had experienced stepping into the immersive work had described the feeling as "spellbinding", "uncanny" and "magical", particularly when paired to the alluring, slightly eerie sound track of Erik Satie - Gnossiennes 1-6.
Emerging after the traumas of WWI, Surrealist artists sought to make sense of the frightening reality they had lived through. They dared viewers to question their own physical worlds by pulling apart the very composition of day-to-day life, in an attempt to distort, provoke and challenge.
Donald said there were obvious comparisons to today's post-Covid world.
"You don't have to dig too deep to realise there are some extraordinary parallels," she said.
"Surrealism arose post WWI … in reaction to everything that was happening as a way of understanding and interpreting and changing perceptions of the accepted."
"All those things are very pertinent right now, a lot of us are looking very different at things, appreciating things differently."
Although the art movement began about 100 years ago, Donald and the team agreed Surrealists would have embraced digital tools had they been around to see them.
"Surrealists would have been the first to pick up digital tools because of everything they do altering reality, taking you deeper and tapping into an unconscious and revealing the hidden," she said.
"They did it with their brains and their hands and their paint brushes, but had they access to digital tools, I imagine they would have gone crazy."
Donald hoped the hundreds of visitors that would pour through the exhibition each day would leave feeling slightly "whimsical", and captivated by the uncanniness of Magritte's mirror.
"Whatever the response is, it's completely valid and it's something you recall - it's memorable," she said.
"You have to exit the exhibition and go into the real world with things slightly altered."
"There are no ordinary things."
• Surrealist Art: Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen will run at Te Papa Tongarewa from June 12 to October 31. The museum is offering a new youth price of $18.50 for people under 26. The adult price is $23. Visitors are encouraged to book ahead on the Te Papa website to avoid disappointment.