What is a virtual museum? This is not simply a museum website where you can view the collections by clicking an index. Nor is this a museum placed in a virtual world such as Second Life (which interestingly enough has a thriving art scene).
The mission of the AMDM is to “Showcase and preserve digital work and illustrate how digital media shapes and impacts society.” Adobe "has changed the world...and we wanted to celebrate that,” says Rich Silverstein, Museum Director.
Keith Anderson, Creative Director, says the main question asked when developing the idea was, "how would this work in the real world?" Architects and designers were hired to create a museum that could theoretically be placed in any city in the world. There is an outside atrium, gallery space, and towers where the archives will be housed.
So how do you walk through this virtual space? There are no avatars. Instead, a sea-jelly-meets-futuristic floating machine eyeball is your guide to the space (complete with cute old-school-computer-takes-an-underwater-journey sound effects).
One of the greatest aspects of this new space is the freedom to create work that would be impossible to show in a traditional museum. Often, digital pieces are printed out on paper, or projected, and depending on the artist, a lot of the meaning behind the piece is lost (not to mention quality). It's like taking a Polaroid of The Birth of Venus. Sure, the photograph might turn out amazing and some people could like it better than the original because it has a neat 1960's quality to it... but I doubt that was the image Sandro Botticelli had in mind in 1486.
I’m excited and a bit hesitant at the prospect of this museum. Yes, I think a virtual museum will have enormous potential for artists who work in digital media. Images of many artists’ work do no justice to their pieces. However, I am someone who likes to be physically immersed in a museum. It is an escape from the real world into another universe: sometimes confusing, sometimes controversial, sometimes just beautiful, but always refreshing. It’s the same comfort as getting lost in a good book. I worry that, personally, I will not get the same satisfaction exploring the very cool looking structure from the 15-inch screen of my MacBook. But then again, I am also one of those people who refuse to use a Kindle because I like to physically hold a book. So who knows, it might be a heavenly solution to dealing with crowds and the hassle of checking your coat. And the fact that you never have to worry about hours or off days is pretty great.
What do you think? Is this where we are headed? Will virtual museums help create demand for the arts by allowing everyone to have access from the comfort of their homes?
The first show is entitled, "The Valley," and is curated by Tom Eccles. It will feature work by Tony Oursler, an amazing video artist who has already been pushing the boundaries of what digital media should look like and how it can be displayed (Did anyone catch his recent show at the Mattress Factory?). Oursler tends to highlight the strangeness of humanity in his work, and the medium of the internet and how it reflects society will obviously play a role in this new show.
Membership is free and just takes an email address. I am curious to see where the Adobe Virtual Museum goes from here. Will there be any social aspect to the museum? Will they ever partner with real life spaces for exhibits? Will they try to place a version of the museum in Second Life?
Opening night is August 2, 2010! I expect to see all of your sea-jelly-machine-eyeballs there so we can crack open a bottle of cyber wine and toast to the latest in technology meets museums!