The Digital Museum of Digital Art goes beyond the confines of the physical gallery, decked out in nods to Mayan and Greek architecture and accessible worldwide
The vast potential of communicating artworks via an internet connection is increasingly emerging through artist-led explorations, bringing the gallery to the web in a multitude of formats. From Panther Modern’s structured ‘rooms’ to Daata Edition’s multimedia marketplace, the traditional structures of an exhibition are dissolving. Another platform opening up the experience of art is DiMoDa (The Digital Museum of Digital Art), created by Alfredo Salazar-Caro and William Robertson. Conceived in 2013 but launched this November, the project exists currently as both a virtual pavilion for The Wrong Biennale and as a physical installation at TRANSFER gallery in Brooklyn, New York.
The online museum, designed and modelled in 3D by Salazar-Caro, has the look of Mayan and Greek architecture, merging classical tradition with contemporary digital craft. Wearing a VR headset, viewers move through portals to reach the different ‘wings’ of the museum, where the contributing artists have designed their own digital spaces. For both Salazar-Caro and Robertson, it was important that each artist have complete control over the shape of their virtual environment. Far from the restricting four walls and overhead costs of the physical gallery, these spaces offer limitless possibility for experimentation. For its first exhibition, the museum houses the work of Claudia Hart, Tim Berresheim, Jacolby Satterwhite and Aquanet 2001. Deliberately distancing itself from the fast-produced, fast-consumed world of net art, the platform will only be exhibiting biannually, with up to five artists each time.
POSTmatter: You describe your upcoming virtual gallery DiMoDA as a ‘virtual institution’. Why do you think it is now important to collect, preserve and exhibit digital art in this virtual format?
Will Robertson: It only makes sense to display and maintain artwork that is created in a digital format in its native environment. Rather than adapt pieces to fit within the context of a physical space, we have developed a platform to host natively digital works in a manner that suits the boundless nature of the digital world. There is an element of accessibility that would be impossible to achieve with a physical gallery space. Already, within the first week of our beta launch, we have had visitors from 186 cities in over 45 different countries – and not a single person had to purchase a plane ticket to experience the exhibition.
PM: For DiMoDA’s debut, you present it as both a physical exhibition and an online platform. What is the purpose of creating multiple formats?
WR: Because we have chosen to utilise the Oculus as a means for immersing visitors within our exhibition space, we feel that it is important to partner with our friends in the physical gallery world to help to make the experience accessible. Oculus is not yet publicly released for consumers, and the computers capable of running the exhibition in Virtual Reality can be very expensive.
Already we have had visitors from 186 cities in over 45 different countries – and not a single person had to purchase a plane ticket to experience the exhibition.
PM: How do you go about translating work between physical and digital spaces?
Alfredo Salazar-Caro: This is something that I’ve been working on for quite some time. It can be a pretty tough negotiation on how to bring these two together. To begin with, one could argue that there is no separation between the real and the virtual. In order to bring the museum to a space, we need physical computers, displays and VR goggles. The internet is dependent on a massive amount of servers all over the world, and so there is an undeniable relationship between VR and IRL.
That being said, it’s important to understand the issue aesthetically as well. In this instance, we’ve chosen to make a 3D-printed sculpture that houses all the data from the museum as a limited edition collectors item. This is just one example, but in the past, I’ve constructed structures that house screens, in order to connect the digital with the sculptural. Hopefully as we go along, we’ll discover new creative ways of harmonising the two.
PM: Why did you choose to create the architecture for the DiMoDA museum in a Mayan and Greek style?
ASC: When designing the architecture I wanted to nod at the classic museum canon, but also somehow subvert it. The Greek canon of beauty has ruled much of the western aesthetic for several centuries, and has also made a mysterious come back on the Internet with things like Vaporwave, Seapunk and Greek-New-Media. Growing up in Mexico City, I was exposed to the Aztec and Mayan canons of beauty, something that for the colonialists was savage and disposable. I wanted to bring both aesthetics to a symbolic equilibrium by combining them.
The Greek canon of beauty has ruled much of the western aesthetic for several centuries, and has also made a mysterious come back on the Internet with things like Vaporwave, Seapunk and Greek-New-Media.
PM: In what ways have your contributing artists responded to producing work for a virtual gallery environment?
WR: I would say that the response has been overwhelmingly positive. VR has opened up the opportunity for artists to both explore a new perspective and reinvestigate older digital works in a more immersive digital setting. I think everyone is excited. We’re at the beginning of VR as a viable platform, and have a unique opportunity to be able to be pioneers in the field.
PM: In terms of your own work, what freedom has New Media formats allowed in terms of moving beyond spatial and political restrictions?
ASC: To me, one of the most rewarding aspects of working as a New Media Artist has been the freedom of propagation that my work has. It’s great to get invited to be part of a screening or an exhibition halfway around the world, and be able to just email a file over. In the same sense, I have been exposed to the work of hundreds of amazing artists who live in remote areas of the world.
It’s certainly good to be able to express myself with a political voice from within a country that protects those freedoms. I know several artists like Morehshin Allahyari from Iran or Miyo VanStenis and Helena Acosta from Venezuela whose work would be difficult (if not impossible) to publicise from within their respective countries. The internet is a beautiful thing, and being an artist native to this space can be rewarding.
PM: Does this also relate to your desire to move beyond the restrictions of a physical gallery space with DiMoDA?
WR: We both feel that the virtual environment provides opportunities and abilities that would be much harder to achieve if we were to exist solely as a physical space. Sharing and creating a dialogue are at the core of our values at DiMoDA. Many of our collaborations and friendships have formed as a global community via relationships created online. DiMoDA is structured as a virtual space in part to help foster the values that we have learned from being a part of these communities.