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Contemporary Art Society: Conference: The Virtual in Museums

CAS Annual Conference – The Virtual in Museums: Hot Medium?
10 May 2018

The National Gallery
Trafalgar Square
London, WC2N 5DN

Organiser: Contemporary Art Society

Join us for the Contemporary Art Society’s 2018 Annual Conference, where we will explore the rapid development of digital imagery in the artistic realm and its representation in museums.

A key recent development is virtual reality, a computer generated environment that is both immersive and interactive, tied to its technology of a headset and screen. Using virtual reality – which is still a solipsistic experience at this stage – as the counterpoint to the shared experience of a museum visit, we hope to think critically and constructively about the term virtual in relation to institutions.

The media theorist Marshall McLuhan defined a ‘hot medium’ as something that “engages the senses completely and requires minimal participation from the user”. We will question whether this definition applies to virtual reality and critically discuss how it is used both as a product and as an object in itself with artists, curators and specialists in the field.

Exploring the different possibilities of digital technology – from enhancement of collections to immersive environments – we hope to discuss the distinctions between what is real and what is artificial, expanding the notion of what the virtual can be.

Throughout the day we will hear curators and contemporary artists discussing their engagement with this technology. The unique, exclusive and ultimately solipsistic experience of VR might radically transform visitor experience – collective, shared and ultimately public – proposing a new way to understand artworks and their histories. The powerful potential of VR as a new creative direct cross-medium makes it an unbeatable tool for the museum of today to face the challenges of tomorrow.

Larry Achiampong and David Blandy, Finding Fanon 2 (2015). UHD Digital Video screenshot Courtesy of Larry Achiampong and David Blandy

Larry Achiampong and David Blandy, Finding Fanon 2 (2015). UHD Digital Video screenshot Courtesy of Larry Achiampong and David Blandy

Conference Schedule

10.30 – 11.45: Registration

10.45 – 11.00: Welcome by Dr. Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery and Caroline Douglas, Director of the Contemporary Art Society.

Part 1: Context.
The first section will discuss museums strategies, exhibitions displays and acquisitions.

11.15 – 11.40 Professor Andrew Dewdney, Centre for Media and Culture Research, London South Bank University.

11.40 – 12.05 Sabine Himmelsbach, Director, HeK House of Electronic Arts Basel

12.10 – 12.45 Panel Discussion moderated by Ariane Koek, Independent Cultural Strategist Producer and Writer.

12.45 – 14.15 Lunch Break. Screening of Finding Fanon 2, 8 minutes David Blandy and Larry Achiampong.

Part 2: Engagement.
In the second section the speakers will discuss forms of interaction with artworks; from searching collections, to gaming and role play in artworks.

14.15 – 14.25 Presenting Finding Fanon 2: David Blandy and Larry Achaimpong, artists.

14.25 – 14.50 Daniel Hermann, Curator of Special Projects, National Gallery and Chris Michaels, Director of Digital, National Gallery.

14.50 – 15.05 Ed Fornelies, artist.

15.05 – 15.15 Suhair Khan, Google Art Project.

15.15 – 15.45 Panel Discussion Moderated by Ben Vickers, Digital Curator Serpentine Galleries.

Part 3: Immersion.
The last section of the day will look into how virtual reality is linked to the context of immersion’ relation between viewers and work; solitary experiences and multiple perspectives.

15.45 – 16.10 Cecile B. Evans, artist in conversation with Isobel Harbison, art critic.

16.10 – 16.25 Dado Valentic,Chief Technology Officer, Acute Art.

16.25 – 17.00 Panel Discussion moderated by Andrea Lissoni, Senior Curator of International Art (Film), Tate Modern.

17.00 End notes, Ilaria Puri Purini, Curator of Programmes Contemporary Art Society.