We live in a virtual world

Yeah we do, yeah we do…

IMG_0218The virtual art world has been promoted. When faced with limitations on travel and human interaction, sites like Google Arts & Culture has offers thousands of virtual museums visits, many including online tours that allow a simulated pedestrian experience.The entire collection can be found here; Google’s top 10 are highlighted here, including the Musee D’Orsay, which I wrote about here. Moving through the spaces can be a little wonky at times, but it’s pretty awesome being able to see collections in Seoul, Los Angeles, and Berlin in the same hour. Smaller galleries have forged online presences, including the smaller Talwar Gallery in New York.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Stills from the transformative video Staging Silence 3 by Hans Op de Beeck.

But we can think beyond museum tours. There’s digital arts, for example, and works that might actually be best experienced at home on a personal computer. Hans Op de Beeck creates mesmerizing digital works; here is his site (scroll down). Staging Silence 3 (a few still images are above) is a wonderful example of his ability to transform perceptual space in less than 30 seconds. Staging Silence 2 was featured at the Hirshorn a few years ago.

IMG_0221Virtual experiences also offer the ability to access pieces and works not acquired by or featured in a museum. For example, Laurie Anderson  teamed up with Kronos Quartet (an old fave from my OSU days:) and having extra time on my hands right now offers an opportunity for me to track down the album and take a listen, something I should’ve done before but didn’t because I was too busy running around doing errands and thinking about places to visit in person.

And, there are already specific online options popping up in direct response to the current day situation. Artforum magazine is highlighting day to day shifts in art culture. Under the “Video” link there’s a delightful vignette about 2 Lizards dealing with quarantine. It’s entitled “Episode 1” suggesting there’s more to come.IMG_0235

Steve Prince (whose Living Links was written about here) has developed the Muscarelle in the House YouTube channel with online art instruction. There are many out there to take advantage of, including offerings from MOMA and the Smithsonian. I’ve signed up for MOMA’s Modern Art & Ideas course. There’s an added bonus (esp. for me who now teaches online): it’s fun and interesting to see how you can deliver content and to find out what we, as students ourselves, like or dislike about different online presentation options.

With new emphasis placed on using technology that’s always been available, how quickly will humans revert back once restrictions are lifted? It’s not that we couldn’t do these things before. It is the case, however, that we regularly did not employ the expanse of our virtual worlds.

Some might even argue the virtual experience is more intimate because there’s no one around to distract us from really engaging with the material presented. Other’s might argue there’s no way to take in the organic nature of the piece– the way it smells, the magnanimity of feeling associated with the work and the space within which it is presented, the nuances of seeing brushmark on canvas.

For now, no one need argue about which is better as virtual bests real for the time being. Going forward, this time spent secluded at home with our computers on our laps offers a special opportunity to dive deep into expressions of art in taking the time to look at those that lie beyond the hallowed walls of the curatorial world. Or, even make our own works. We can draw, paint, build, knit, collect, arrange, linger, critique, and amaze ourselves.


Author: Jennifer Stevens

I am a professor and live in Williamsburg, VA (USA).

One thought on “We live in a virtual world”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: