Virtual Museums Challenge the Status of Art in the World
Following his emphasis on access, Semple provided the first version of VOMA, which his team spends on monthly construction. He describes it as “weird,” but it requires a powerful computer and gigabytes of downloads and plug-ins to run. “Geeks love it,” he says,”
Giving people a chance is the point. It’s too early to know how many virtual museums can enhance the world of art, if at all-VOMA still averages about 500 visitors a day. Yet it provides a blueprint for ways to share works that people might not otherwise see, even if it doesn’t replace the museum experience. Virtual setups also, Duong said, make it easy to curate displays. “In the virtual space, there is more flexibility in choosing different sizes of rooms,” he said. “You can move the artwork around, you can make it the same frame.” The process was so smooth, Duong used a virtual platform to plan a new physical show. “On the hang day,” he said, “it became seamless.”
While much in the art world is debating the pros and cons of virtual and physical space, one group—teamLab—Creates a recurring experience that transcends those differences. An international collective of several hundred artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians, and architects, teamLab believes that boundaries between the self, virtual, and physical worlds never exist. To prove this, they use augmented reality and other deepening technology to remove their perceived artificially imposed barriers.
Their current exhibit at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, teamLab: Forward, a collection of pieces that are expected in many respects. Without planning, the presence and movement of the guests creates and changes each piece so that it is constantly evolving. Because it requires human interaction, anyone wants to see Moving forward it must be experienced IRL. At one point, the stand still created images of blooming flowers throughout the space. Tread on a flower, and it will wither and die. The crows circled the other passages, leaving traces of light, scattering what they had passed, but melted into giant flowers when they fell on the people. “Through an interactive relationship between visitors and artwork, people become an intrinsic part of this artwork.” the collective says.
Delighted by the vivid image, but skeptical of the idea of removing the barriers between art and spectators using technology, I wandered into a space where a flock of butterflies were biting my feet and flew to catch up with the crowd. A woman reaches out to touch a projected butterfly and apparently retreats to fall to her touch. Looking at his response as if it were a felt creature, I felt, in just a second split, a wall crumbling, a boundary lost.
Reflecting on the connections of technology and human experiences, my mind wanders back to the 8-year-old Semple and the sunflowers that shook his world. Could his experience be replicated in a virtual museum? “Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s possible,” according to him. “I thought the technology was there, but the vision to use that tech for beauty and art was never captured.” Afterwards he perks. “But it’s coming.”
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