Most artists — at some point in their creative journey — fantasize about creating their own world… their own reality. A place born from their imagination and will.
“I paint flowers so they will not die.” — Frida Kahlo
Humans have been fascinated with the concept of virtual reality since 1935 when American science fiction writer Stanley Weinbaum presented the idea in his short story “Pygmalion’s Spectacles”. And since the Oculus Rift (a popular VR headset) was launched in 2012, VR is becoming more immersive and more prevalent with every passing year.
And with software like Google’s tilt brush becoming more intuitive and easy to use, artists are starting to create works that live exclusively in the digital realm.
And no, it’s not only digital artists who are doing so. Fine artists are taking up the mantle as well.
“In short: technology provides new tools for expression and it changes the way we think about the world. It has the power to fundamentally change our collective understanding of art. But technology alone does not have that power. Certain historic and philosophical conditions had to be in place as well.” — Dalibor Polivka, The Real Politics of Art
Artists are building a ‘portal’ into a reality of their own making
This is a major VR art installation at Círculo de Bellas Artes titled “Temperate Forest” presented by Cristina Garcia-Lasuen. And she’s coined the term “Portal Art” to encapsulate a genre she describes as “3D, VR, immersive, interactive, realistic, multi-sensory, of the world.”
She also states that for virtual reality art to be considered as “fine art” it should fall under these criteria:
For a creation to be a work of art, it must be done by an art professional: an artist.
The objective must respond to very elaborate intellectual criteria and not merely aesthetic ones. The exclusively aesthetic, without previous intellectual development, is not art; it is ‘something decorative’.
For conceptual art, as an essential priority, the work must be the result of a long reflexive process, in accordance with artistic, philosophical, literary and art history concepts. The concept that has inspired the reflexive work is the most important thing — much more than the final result or aesthetics.”
One of the most difficult things about promoting and sharing virtual art is that it can only be done in virtual reality. However, the video above depicts exactly how an artist can go about creating a portrait with Google’s tilt brush.
Fine artists are setting up installations at well-known museums. And their popularity is overwhelming. “The Chalkroom” by Laurie Anderson at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) is booked out up to 30 days in advance. And Jon Rafman’s “View of Harbor” by Jon Rafman(where a tsunami sweeps you out into the ocean) is capturing the imagination of thousands at the Institute of Contemporary Art
The Artistic community is excited and gearing up to keep improving the tech
“Art, freedom and creativity will change society faster than politics.” — Victor Pinchuk
Google’s serious about getting on board with the artistic community. They’re working with 60 professional artists to explore and improve the current tools available.
Meanwhile, the Museum of Other Realities is an exclusive VR museum that hires, pays, and promotes artists across multiple disciplines.
And there’s many, many more VR projects,art pieces, and worlds out there — most in their infancy — for you to experience.
And here’s the good news — people are investing in and collecting VR art installations
The bad news is that it can be a little tricky to purchase, install, maintain exclusivity, and keep the tech working for years to come.
Private art buyers can now purchase a VR art installation for either investment or display in their home. All that’s needed to view the piece? A headset and a 3x3 block of empty space.
Galleries focusing on new media (like TRANSFER Gallery in the US) are actively supporting VR artists by providing funding, promotion, and installation.
“TRANSFER offers support for artists who are experimenting with new forms of installation and exhibition of Virtual Reality works.”
However, once you’ve purchased an artwork, how do collectors and investors retain and preserve their exclusivity? And how do you ensure the art remains viewable as new technologies emerge and may not be backward compatible. The answer deserves a whole article of its own, but this quote describes the underlying problem clearly.
“Let’s say you’re acquiring a Wolfgang Tillmans photograph. The work would be editioned, perhaps with additional artist’s proofs — but the gallery representing the artist would probably not concurrently post a high-resolution file of the image, welcoming anyone to reprint it at their local copy shop. For some working on the cutting-edge of VR art, collecting such material involves letting go of some of the preconceptions we have surrounding unique art objects and their attendant value.” — Scott Indrisek, contributing writer for Artsy. Link to the full article.
So do you want to create your own VR artworks?
All the equipment and software you need to get started will set you back around $1000. But from there, all you need is an internet connection and power. You have an unlimited virtual canvas that can be as big (or as small) as you want it to be.
If you want to get started with taking your art digital, head on over to the app store and download D Emptyspace. It’s a virtual gallery app that’ll give you a taste of what you can accomplish in a new, virtual world.