CURRENTS NEW MEDIA 2020

June 12-21, 2020

On Virtual Reality and Digitized Experience

September 11, 2019

A panel discussion during Space Between the Skies at Apexart Featuring Christiane Paul, Tyler Hopf, and Alfredo Salazar-Caro


Touching on some of the topics covered in last week’s interview with Avital Meshi, this panel discussion with three leaders in the field of Virtual Reality in the arts briefly covers the past, present, and future of virtual experience. Beginning with a brief history of immersive virtual experiences from curator and professor Christiane Paul, we learn that since the dawn of media – all the way back to the Lascaux Caves – artists have been interested in creating immersive virtual spaces which transport the participant out of their present reality. This history leads finally to one of the earlier notable digital immersive art spaces, Osmose, created by Char Davies. Architect Tyler Hopf follows with a discussion around building virtual spaces, but in a compelling turn criticizes the concept of User Experience (UX) in favor of a view that all reality is mediated, therefore virtual reality is no less real than the reality of our everyday experience. Alfredo Salazar-Caro, curator of DiMoDA, also discusses the process of curating virtual works into a virtual museum.

“Virtual reality is real. We are designing reality, we are not just designing software.”

Tyler Hopf

The most fascinating part of this discussion, for me, was during the Q&A. An audience member brought up the idea of public space, and questioned whether there is any room for ‘public space’ in the virtual world, comparing it to Central Park in NYC. The commentators land on the idea that the definition of this space is always in flux, as Central Park is actually as reliant on its commercial value for the surrounding neighborhoods as it is on the illusion of being set aside for public use. Much the same thing happens in virtual spaces, including social media platforms. While some virtual meeting places aim to mimic reality while giving the user expanded worlds to exist within (i.e. Second Life or Facebook providing a platform for commerce, both social and monetary, which is barely divergent from everyday reality), several participants within MMO’s (massively multiplayer online games) such as World of Warcraft intuitively create wholly new social structures which are outside of the rules, regulations, and objectives of the game.

This panel will address the history and future of virtual reality applications within arts, culture, and industry. Panelists will discuss how virtual reality has changed since it gained public attention in the late 1980s and 1990s, and the different ways it will be (or already is) incorporated into society.

Tyler Hopf is an INNOVATOR / DESIGNER / LEADER / BUILDER / WRITER / CREATOR / DESTROYER / INVENTOR / HYPNOTIZER / SWIMMER / PROTOTYPER / DRAWER / ERASER / DREAMER / HELPER / RUNNER / SLEEPER / EXPLORER / LAUGHER. He is also Virtual Reality UX Designer at Framestore, a company looking to the future of storytelling through Virtual Reality.

Christiane Paul is Associate Professor and Associate Dean at the School of Media Studies, The New School, and Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts at the Whitney Museum of American Art. She has written extensively on new media arts and lectured internationally on art and technology. Her recent books include A Companion to Digital Art (forthcoming Blackwell-Wiley); Digital Art (Thames and Hudson, 3rd revised edition, 2015), Context Providers – Conditions of Meaning in Media Arts (Intellect, 2011; Chinese edition, 2012), co-edited with Margot Lovejoy and Victoria Vesna. She has curated several exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, including Cory Arcangel: Pro Tools (2011) and Profiling (2007), and is responsible for artport, the Whitney Museum’s website devoted to Internet art.

Alfredo Salazar-Caro is an artist and co-founder of the Digital Museum of Digital Art, an online museum dedicated to collecting, preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting Digital Art. As an artist, Salazar-Caro’s work exists at the intersection of portraiture/self-portraiture, installation, virtual reality, video and sculpture. He has exhibited in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Caracas (Venezuela), Shiraz (Iran), and Mexico City, and has been featured in publications such as LeonardoNew CityArt F City, and Creators Project. Alfredo hopes to one day live forever as a computer simulation.

Christopher Manzione is currently Assistant Professor in Visual Arts and Technology at Stevens Institute of Technology. He earned his M.F.A. from Rutgers University in 2009. He is founder and director of the Virtual Public Art Project, an organization that uses Augmented Reality to produce original artist works in public space. Manzione most recently received a 2014 Fellowship through Franconia Sculpture. In addition he was a 2013 Fellow for New Jersey State Council on the Arts, artist-in-residence at William Paterson University’s Center for Computer Art and Animation (2011), Socrates Sculpture Park (Emerging Artist Fellowship, 2010), Vermont Studio Center (Full Fellowship, 2009), and Anderson Ranch Arts Center (2009). He has shown nationally and internationally at venues such as the Boston ICA, Abington Arts Center, Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, the Surry Hills Festival in Melbourne, and Gurzenich Koln Museum in Cologne.