Friday, September 01, 2006

Future museum= virtual museum= contemporary art?

Future museum= virtual museum= contemporary art?
selected chapter from A new image for the Museum of Contemporary Art- Sydney
A place of art or a place for art?

1.Place for art, piece of art- now and the future.
Art museum, which at the beginning defined as a storehouse for artefacts, especially art gallery called art museum because of its permanent collection, might be approach in new ways although it still has same context as a place of representation and interpretation of human civilization.

Art museum might not be viewed as a passive vehicle of stylistic succession, or of intellectual and aesthetic exchange, but also as "a presentation of the most sensate, akin signs and traces of much wider network of cultural processes, experience and meanings". As experience of art works involves human capabilities to analyse, to know, to perceive, to remember and to imagine. It also requires our sensibilities to put attention on their construction and details as well as their conceptual framework of relationship to other things.

Therefore, communication with art works can happen only where communication between the audiences and artwork happens directly.

By recognising, the historical footprint of the building and its location in the historical vicinity of the birthplace of the nation, Museum of Contemporary Art- Sydney, has facilitated the mapping process of historical growth of Australian cultural activities.
This cultural activities process requires involvement many publics and sub-sections of community, with diverse aspirations, backgrounds, experiences and notions of value, toward future definition of contemporary art museum.

As a place for art, Museum of Contemporary Art-Sydney has obligation to define its character as an institution dedicated for contemporary art and its relation to larger patterns of cultural history. As a contemporary art museum, it should contain museum definition as its foundation while the term contemporary become its framework. Then, it should capable to accommodate both concepts frames, a museum and contemporary term, at the same time within contemporary art and cultural context.
While it also becomes as a reflective cultural processes that draws resources and nourishment from the past, forming ideas of history, knowledge and value, and at the same time taking possession of the present and conceiving new worlds: drawing one memory to active imagination, reshape the concept, challenge the mind and then reactivate experience .

The Museum become a cultural institutional where culture itself is sourced and shaped from community space to the museum space, "as art is related to the social context in which it is pursued, as well as seeking contrary grounds of statement, against the overwhelming flux of life itself" .

"The Museum becomes a synthetic environment for art, as art has not longer naturally integrated with the whole spectrum of cultural activities as it is in pre-modern societies. This is because of our fragmented and diversified relationship to history and object within modern society". In order to understand art's origins and become meaningful to particular society's culture, the museum emerges as fabric of those representation and reinterpretation, and encourages the audiences to involve their history, identity and personal memory entering the framework of the art definition.

Museum of Contemporary Art is defined as a piece of art, as we look at the museum as an object, has had a character of contemporary art, which contemporary art means the art of the times, the art that produce in the present . Although the building was built in the past, it has certain character which contemporary art definition can embrace its architecture character. This because the building has certain character that adaptable to the current and future condition, as it does not have a defined character of both classical art and modern art. " It becomes an art that responding to the subconscious ritual and impulses of a social or cultural situations and emerges as an identified art form within historic civilizations".
While the building historical footprint can become a reference to its contemporary art definition, as contemporary art do not only means artwork from the present, but also means as an artwork that has contemporary art framework and values. A type of art that contain a form of representation, "ideas that are structured in the mind that also evolved through sensation and non narrative perception", that has social context relating to particular times, history and cultural position .

Museum of Contemporary Art- Sydney, either the existing one or together with the Stage II, new extension of MCA-Sydney should be able stand both as a place for art and also can become an object of contemporary art.

On one hand, it becomes a place where art objects are being displays and storage. A place where a human culture and civilization are being written and mapped. It becomes a place for art, where the historical and cultural value of the building footprint and its vicinity has become the first foundation of it later establishment as an art envelope. As a place of art, it has become a cultural centre for marking the human civilization.

On another hand, it becomes an object of art. As its architecture can adaptable to any condition regardless the time. In the past, its architectural style was expected to be able to project the future, while in the present time; its style has become a historical trace of the growth of a harbour city for the future generation. It becomes a contemporary art as it consists of many cultural layers from different periods. While at the same time, it facilitates those cultures on one single frame, as contemporary art might also define as layering human civilization journey toward modern human lifestyle.

Thus, the historical value of the site, its later function as a contemporary art museum, and pictures of the growth of the city are echoing and intertwining each other and then emerge as new modern human cultural centre, a place where art objects has been facilitated beyond culture. While at the same time it has become an art object of emergent.

2.Future museum= virtual museum= contemporary art?
Our architecture has no physical ground plan but a mental one.
There are no walls anymore.
Our rooms are pulsating balloons.
Our heartbeat becomes a room our face is the building's façade, Coop Himmelblau.

That is what so schizophrenic about the conditions in which we live: telematic system for networking virtual realities worldwide make it possible for us to be simultaneously present here and elsewhere. During the course of the coming years we will have to accustom ourselves more and more to the idea of accepting ourselves and others as virtual forms of existence in virtual space, Roy Ascott.

Computer technology has become one of the most important inventions in this century. It has become an essential part of modern human lifestyle.
Together with telecommunication technology, computer technology has brought human civilization to the new era toward borderless world. It does not only have change the way we lives and interact with our world but also it gives a new shape to the way we make relationship as a human being with others.

This technology has bring the world become smaller and closer especially with the Internet that emerged in the mid of 1990s. It gives new definition of interaction and communication. And gives a new term of interconnection in human society and culture.

Cyberspace becomes somehow part of new human culture, as it has ability to interact with human mind, (body) and become part of daily modern human lifestyle. "The boundaries of personal identity will be very fluid, arbitrary and subjective. Interconnection with others will rapidly form and dissolve" .
It emerges as the fourth dimension of human civilization. It might as a new culture; new architectural spaces where it is not visible but it was present. A new space that is able to give a new contemporary experience.
A technology that is always evoked new representation of reality.

Although, might not everyone agree with those remark, it is true that cyberspace not always means positive to human being as the most intelligent social creature. With this technology, actually brings human being apart from others and it contradicts with their definition as a social creature.
With e-mail, we can write and read virtual letter and everyone will have uniform hand writing, computer writing style. We will less visit our friends as we can do our regular socialisation with our computer/TV set through real time camera.
It makes new definition of individualism in modern human civilization.
We can do whatever we want to do with help of technology.
Even we can do our daily grocery shopping from home with virtual money (credit card basically is a good example of an early approach of future virtual money/cash/bank). Conventional post marked has been changed with infrared barcode postmark that done digitally as another good example. This new development obviously will gradually reduce then replace conventional post office and post officer. We can access our e-mail from home or anywhere from a server, ISP (internet service provider), that becomes a virtual post office for our daily e-mail(electronic mail).
We also do not need go to cinema anymore as we can watch cinema from our computer at home or from anywhere with portable computer or digital new definition mobile telecommunication unit with cinema quality. Smart interior both static or dynamic for another example, we can have a device that create an interior atmosphere (virtual interior) within a second, so we can have different interior style according our mood in every occasion without necessarily require an interior designer to do so. Those inventions will change the way we make our life and form our community. We do not need public school to gain formal education anymore as we can have virtual university with cheaper and better quality education, and might friendly teachers. Might we want also to fix the problem that we currently have in our current society: pollution, traffic jam, crime, unemployment, homeless, etc. with digital technology. There will be police cameras anywhere on every corner of the city area to protect us from the street's troublemakers. It makes the street saver and makes scrolling city enjoyable. In fact, we do not longer have privacy, as now every movement of our life freely exposed to the public observation. Those facilities exist as we deserve better life and want something that we can express ourself as the most intelligent creatures.
Digital technology has made Internet as the most powerful media to send information/data through the space, as cyberspace do not limited with wire interconnection anymore.
This is one example of human behaviour to express their intelligences and remarking human civilization on the earth.
Ancient people mapped the way they lived and what they achieved with pictogram on the cave, and now modern people want to do the same thing in another way, in digital technology. It will make life become tougher and highly competitive as only people with digital technology skill and knowledge only will survive in this digital world; it is same competition pattern with what happen in the past. We always want better than others and get a better chance when we could.

Does this mean, we are no longer in a real world, real life and real community, as all of them has been replace with digital community?
We create a technology that gradually not only become a tool for us but also become an essential part of our life.
It means, although it has some negative affects to our life and community, but it also has some good aspect that we should look at.
It has created to make our life better and easier in some extent.

Cyberspace is considered as the solution to all problems in the real world. Interconnection of the cyberspace has brought the urban reality of cities: the decay of public areas, increasing sub-urbanization, and the setting up of the dual city to another dimension with promise. A city where no longer has geographical condensation of capital, power, culture and knowledge, Florian Roetzer.

The natural world was portrayed as vast self-contained mathematical machine, consisting of motions of matter in space and time, and man in purposes, feelings and secondary qualities was shoved apart as an unimportant spectator and semi real effect of the great mathematical drama outside, Edwin Arthur Burtt.

Cyberspace has been seen as a bio-electronic environment, a universal environment, where there is new living environment that its success or failure will depend upon common good, which public life, and culture differences will be used in the creation of an environment where everybody can coexist. Florian Roetzer.

By changing space, by leaving the space of one's usual sensibilities, one enters into communication with a space that is psychically innovating. For we do not change place, we change our nature, Gaston Bachelad .
Virtual reality as a new media of cyberspace has brought the role of cyberspace in the human civilization become more apparent. It has facilitated the construction of the fourth dimension become reality. "A spatiality that no longer be expressed in integer numbers but instead in fractional". It tends to extend the real space toward virtual space. It is a dynamic space where its space- time is able to give experience to individual.

It is a new world dimension where interconnecting the users in immediate and intimate with no interval. Its environment destabilizes traditional concepts of space and cultural interiority. It diminished the concept of a geographical area with single cultural identity and history within its physical borders, Townsend S. .

VR (virtual reality) becomes a part of modern human lifestyle that gradually shift their lifestyle in the real world. It has changed the way we do our daily activities, our businesses, our works, our interactions, relationships, and communications with others as a human being and they way we are thinking. It does not only make a new artificial layer in human civilization but it has changed, emerged and give new shape that make it seems as a natural interaction. It might become something that we will not realise its artificiality as gradually we are going to adopt and accept its presence in our culture and in our mind.

It is a new spatiality, that has a new definition of architecture, a space where it existence no longer important and necessary. It has a new representation and definition of culture in new cyber society. No single cultural identity will exist, but it will consist of the trace of old culture that coexist and emerge as a new cultural identity, a cultural identity that emerges from our awareness as a social creatures. As we always deserve a fulfilment for our interest in our environment bubble. Culture that no longer has defined as an identity at the beginning, but at the end will gradually form a new culture, as we adopt cyberspace as part of our life and our culture.

Future museum= virtual museum= contemporary art?
Virtual reality technology that its technology has tremendously growth in the past years has opened a new vista on the way we seeing our world.

It makes our daily life faster and more dynamic. It might make our life easier and convenient. It opens all impossibilities in the past to the new era of better easy solution, in medicine field for instance or in reconstruction of ancient history that might be very difficult or very expensive if we do in conventional way.
However, at the current time this technology is only as a compliment and accelerator to our conventional modern lifestyle. It might take sometimes until this technology will become a natural interaction between human and artificial world that never tangible and visible.

A conventional art museum, where it designed as a place where we can gain new real experience and education through its collection might be in the current development of digital technology will be no longer effective and visible in term of commercial value and for future development.
As we seen recently, few new born virtual museums both in World Wide Web media and in another form has become a good example how museum can be pushed further in digital technology environment . Especially for contemporary art, as contemporary art will do not have a define definition of fine art. It is type of art that have more flexibility and opportunity to be explored and developed.

Virtual reality is realm that has fragment of past, the birth of technology: industrial revolution, while at the same time it has the essence of the present technology: digital technology. It is a new form of digital technology that it opportunity just revealed and yet developed.

Can VR be categories as contemporary?
Might be the answer is yes, as contemporary means product of present time. Although it might has the fragment from the past, but it has framed in the present time and still has the present value.

Virtual reality technology does not only have open the new vista of digital technology but also open new opportunity that might have less feasibility in the past. It might give more opportunity and democracy to broader society for accessibility that in the past might have limitation.

This can be seen from present digital network media, the Internet. The users have opportunity to gain access to any type of information from different domains in relative short time. It might have less restriction; less regulation but has more freedom to gain any information than in the real world.
It has greater interconnection than before, as time and distance barrier has become less obstruction for communication between one and another place in the world. It makes personal and cultural identities differences almost disappear. Every one becomes equal disregard their age, sex, race, nationality and location origin.

In term of museum, Internet might give better accessibility for the people who live in far distance from the museum. It gives more opportunity for people being able to access a museum that might be located in another country without necessary do travelling.
Internet might stand as an extension of museum publication, it is not necessarily it contains the entire collection of the museum, although it might happen if the museum is a virtual museum. A museum that its domain is in cyberspace, a museum that it physical premises never present.

This media, the Internet, is only one example how art museum can use and explore Internet media possibilities to expand their wing and then communicate and interact with their visitors. However, with its limitation might Internet as 2D world will not able to give the real experience to their visitors. As one task of the museum is delivering the real experience and representation from its collections to the audiences, beside its functions as a cultural centre.
It might give a real experience, as this media might give same experience with what we gain while watching movie or television. It requires interaction of our body sensory and mind in order to perceive that information. The limitation of gaining this information in order to get real experience from this media is not many audiences can be reach, especially person with have disabilities.

Virtual reality world might become a better solution as a digital representative of the museum. It has the ability to have 3D space inside 2D environment; this might be in Internet environment but no longer limited on a flat screen only. This might be able to visualise on type of monitor that has ability to deliver 3D image onto its surface (this might or might not require a special spectacles to watch that 3D space) .

Another way of using Virtual Reality is delivering real experience function more apparent is by using real space with VR environment . It is designed space where people can have digital experience within that space. It might require certain equipment in order to access that experience in very natural ways of interaction.
As an example of this application is: Holowall, it is an interactive digital surface /wall that allows the audiences to interact with digital information displayed on the wall surface without using any special pointing devices. It is capable to demonstrate several interactive environments, "including a world of autonomous digital insects that respond to body movements and an interactive sound environment that reactively creates music sequences based on the user's action".

Another example is Virtual Fish Tank from Nearlife, Inc., is a simulated aquatic environment where the visitor can have direct interaction with the digital object and gain experience directly from that interaction .

In term of museum, in this case contemporary art museum we might have series of digital display panel that deliver artwork, might be digital interactive panels that can have direct interaction with the visitors. It might be a digital panel, which can be accustomed according to the visitors need. Might be just a digital panel that can interact with visitor's eyes movement or according to the retina refraction, and then able to change its next display after few minutes automatically.
It might be a real space that facilitated the interaction of that digital media; it means a space within a space.
This means, we still require a physical premise to accommodate that digital equipment. However, this digital equipment has expanded and pushed further in the early definition of art museum.

The physical premise no longer as static and concentrated premise, but it becomes a device that facilitates real interaction with their visitors, as a natural experience might only be gained from interaction of our body, and our mind with the objects.

This might become a redefinition of museum in the past, where the past is preserved for the future while it also encourages the visitors to build their own representation. It is not longer only as an art storehouse, it might become a digital representation of the past but still it is a cultural centre. A centre where the mapping processes of the human civilization is taking place.

Although still as a cultural centre, this definition has pushed further not only as a centre for local culture only, but it might as a global culture as the cultural identity will gradually disappear as a result of intertwining processes between one with others.

This might the museum that conducts an exhibition from another country contemporary museum collection. It might happen with just sending information and data online through cyberspace and then the visitors of those two museums or more, can view the exhibited objects or even interact with them in real time in real environment.

As the cyberspace do not recognise permanent space, this gives opportunity to the museum to have more than one museum in cyberspace network. It means they can disperse the data and information to many locations, in term of real space, or they can disperse that data directly to their subscribers, without necessarily to have big amount of asset to realise the project. This system makes the museum able to reach their visitors more than before. Especially the main aim of a museum as a public service is delivering educational service to every one disregards their background.

This VR system might become an extension to the museum, but it might become a new form to define a museum, it might a hologram box that can easily be purchased like we buy television, that has the ability becoming receiver to broadcast data/information like radio system. It means we can access to a museum or other kind of information in matter of second from anywhere in the world. It might the hologram box that we have at home or from a communal place like cyber-café in current trend. Then we just pay the museum access fee with virtual money, money that accommodate in card form that do not only become our money storage but also as our passport (ID card), phone card and home access key.

How is about the real experience?
Real experience, do not necessarily have particular space set up in order to gain that experience. However, it might the location should be carefully considered as the location will contribute to the space in order to gain real experience. But, this is not necessarily real premises to accommodate that real experience, that real experience can be gain from anyplace as it will happen when the interaction between our eyes, mind and the object (in this case virtual object) taking place.

Finally, future museum=virtual museum= contemporary art, is a museum that extended digital technology definition, especially virtual reality media in order to build a new form of museum that facilitating both conventional art and digital technology in a digital technology environment. Virtual reality itself is a form of contemporary object. It does not become an instant contemporary art product, because of its location in an art museum but because virtual reality itself has contemporary definition, it had a past process that then finally framed in the present time in new single definition.
Museum of the future, is a museum where the digital technology becomes a complement to the initial definition of museum, it has expanded the museum function as mediator between past and present to their visitors. It builds a new definition of real experience together with new definition of culture. It also might be in a museum form that its premises do not necessarily exist, but the value and the role of being a museum still exist, a compilation of the human civilization journey. This means the future contemporary art museum in term of virtual reality will mean: museum, object, architecture, the technology, and contemporary art object.

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Selected chapter from A new image for the Museum of Contemporary Art- Sydney
A place of art or a place for art?
Bachelor Interior Architecture Dissertation,The University of New South Wales
Sydney Australia, July- October 1999

(c)2006, Widianto Utomo
Widianto Utomo, designer