Curating Online: The 3-D Experience

Over the past week, I have been forwarded information or stumbled across new, online and 3-D digital innovations in the realm of the contemporary arts. In recent years, artists having been seen to push the digital boundaries of contemporary artistic practice by using 3-D imaging, second life and virtual reality processes…and it’s certainly very interesting to watch the development of this cutting-edge contemporary art discourse. One find was artist and filmmaker Maya Zack‘s installation ‘Living Room’ (2011), which uses large-scale computer-generated 3-D images accompanied by sound to evoke a Jewish family’s apartment from 1930s Berlin. While listening to the stories and memories of an 88-year-old Jewish refugee from Tel Aviv, Manfred Nomburg, visitors can experience the apartment visually and use 3-D glasses to enhance the over-sized images in order to re-imagine rooms in the apartment.

A great pictorial explanation shown above of the historicism and relationship behind the objects in the room taken from the New York Times review of the exhibition. The installation references oral history, memory, the act of remembering, intimacy, narrative and the everyday through an archival 3-D inventory…very cleverly articulated.

Last week, I received an email regarding the DSL Collection‘s virtual exhibition curated by Martina Koppel Yang showing some of the collections most important installation and video works. What is different about this exhibition, apart from the fact it is curated virtually online, is that you can also use 3-D glasses enhance how the works are placed within the space, literally adding another dimension. I have previously mentioned the work of the DSL Collection, and their online collection, in relation to a conference paper I presented at the end of last year.

In this short digital film, Koppel Yang walks viewers through the virtual exhibition with a verbal narrative, explaining each of the artworks and artists on show…contexts and concepts…relationships and symbolism. She sees the concept of the museum as relying on ‘the notion of territoriality’ where the DSL Collection curated online as ‘a kind of double de-territorialisation’. I am not questioning the selection of works on show – contemporary Chinese artist’s examinations of current global contexts – however, I did wonder about the spatial construct the exhibition. Where was the space from and what did it reference? Why was it in this style? Also, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the length of the film had any relationship to the length of an average visit to a smaller gallery or museum in “real” life? Had this kind of research been done? Or am I thinking too much?

Although incredibly informative and very well-researched, I felt, in part, a little overwhelmed by the narrated interpretive information. I, like many creative people I know, find it much harder to take in verbal information in comparison to written information…thus, this is when virtual text panels, subtitles, or visual textual information would have aided the interpretation and viewing process. I did feel the music provided some sort of comfort, which in a commercial sense can be compared to playing music whilst shopping in an attempt to maintain your interest and attention and so you buy products…I’m not saying that I felt like a consumer whilst watching though…just more at ease in the virtual situation. It was nice to hear the vague hubbub of people talking and moving within the virtual space too. I’m sure if I watched this again in 3-D, my experience would be totally different…a more immersive and engaging experience. There are certainly facets to this curatorial construct that can be developed for future virtual exhibitions where it’ll be interesting to see what they do next.

Another find is The Creators Project website, ‘a global network dedicated to the celebration of creativity, culture and technology’…a really fantastic resource for the promotion and development of international digital arts that I urge you to look at. There are some really dynamic artists and creatives on there that are really defining the domain of the digital arts.

Yesterday, I came across an article regarding the unveiling of Microsoft’s futuristic see-through 3-D “Desktop Of Tomorrow”, a screen that allows users to physically interact with their digital media by using their fingers and hands, ‘gestures and pinching movements’, behind the screen to move between folders and documents. The OLED (organic light emitting diode) screen with depth cameras that sense the user’s hand movements and head motion, allow objects to be moved around in the correct perspective on a 3-D grid. This can be swiftly converted back to a traditional 2-D interface by placing your fingers back on the keyboard. This combination of the real and the virtual got me thinking about how this could develop the work of the DSL Collection and their 3-D online curatorial platform…or future virtual and digital curatorial and artistic platforms as a whole. It could give you the ability to move more physically in and around the virtual space…to be in control of which artworks and artists you viewed and in which order…giving an added (and needed) physical engagement to the virtual curatorial process. This has the potential to create a new kind of online, digital artistic and curatorial practice….therefore, is 3-D the new realm to be examined as part of contemporary art discourse?

Image courtesy of Microsoft and 'The Creators Project' (2012)

The last thing I came across was ‘s[edition]’, ‘a revolutionary new way to collect art online offering digital limited edition art by the world’s leading contemporary artists.’ The funny thing is I found my way to this site through Facebook as a colleague had shared a link to ‘s[edition]’…they were giving away 5,000 Elmgreen & Dragset’s digital video works of their recent sculpture ‘Powerless Structures, Fig.101’ (2012) in 24 hours…the “real” artwork is currently on ‘The Fourth Plinth’ in Trafalgar Square, London. ‘s[edition]’ worked directly with the artists on this offer, to celebrate the artworks “real” unveiling earlier on in the month. I thought…why not engage in the idea of online collections and digital art…so I clicked through the link and purchased my first piece of digital art (albeit for free). A still is shown below. I couldn’t help think…what do I do with a digital artwork like this? Apart from look at it on my computer, iPhone or iPad (no Apple product plug intended there). How does and should it get displayed? I guess a construct like the DSL Collection curating online would answer that question.

Image © Elmgreen and Dragset, 'Powerless Structures, Fig.101' (2012), courtesy of sedition

‘Powerless Structures, Fig.101’ (2012) is a commentary on traditional sculptures and war monuments, originally cast in bronze for ‘The Fourth Plinth’. By placing the male child on the plinth, his is elevated to the status of a Roman hero, yet has no history to commemorate, only a future to hope for. This representation of the dualisms of victory and defeat, celebrates the heroism of childhood and future expectations rather than glorifying the past. For your purchase you receive a certificate of authenticity, a full screen high-definition video and a high-resolution image still. When I logged into my ‘s[edition]’ “vault” today, I found that 1,170 works from 5,000 works offered had been given away…usually up for sale for £35…I’m not sure whether I’d pay £35 for it…but then I’m still unsure of collecting digital artworks in this way.

The “real” physical act of viewing art in the flesh (as such) is so important to me that “real” experiences won’t ever be replaced by “virtual” ones…they’ll just help to further inform each other. Then I thought about how much time I spend online and in the virtual world communicating, blogging, sharing…time to think about something else…

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