Virtual Museum

1991 Frankfurt, Germany

Software: Gideon May
Hardware: Huib Nelissen

The author’s artistic researches in virtual reality led to the idea of creating virtual environments to exhibit immaterial artistic fabrications. In parallel, the exigencies of existing museums suggested the then-yet-unexplored notion of virtual navigable lookalikes or derivations (which later morphed into the now ubiquitous Internet museum). The Virtual Museum, created soon after the virtual cityscapes of Legible City (1989-91), gave an initial conceptual and aesthetic form to this now pervasive paradigm.  

The Virtual Museum is a three-dimensional computer-generated museum comprising an immaterial constellation of rooms and exhibits. A circular, motorized rotating platform holds a large video projection monitor, a computer, and a chair from which the viewer interactively controls her journey through The Virtual Museum. Forwards and backwards movement of the chair causes corresponding motion by the viewer through the virtual museum space represented on the screen. Turning the chair produces a rotation of this virtual image space, and also a synchronous physical rotation of the platform.

The Virtual Museum is made up of five rooms that have the same appearance as the real room in which the installation is located. This establishes an augmented conjunction of the real and virtual spaces as well as a paradoxical conjunction of the real and virtual modalities of travel for the viewer. To make this explicit, the first virtual room shows a replicated representation of the installation itself. So, when first seated, the viewer faces both the real and virtual monitor screens, and these real and virtual realities are exactly aligned. Then as the viewer starts to travel through The Virtual Museum, she in effect transports herself out of this chair and sees the represented installation, with its vacated chair, as an object outside of her virtual point of view.

The participant enters the four other virtual rooms consecutively by passing through the immaterial walls of whichever room she is in. Each room contains its own specific virtual exhibits, using alphabetical letters and texts as forms. The exhibits in the first three rooms reference existing artistic genres: painting, sculpture and the cinema. The exhibit in the fourth room describes the singularity of a wholly computer-generated environment by showing three randomly moving signs—‘A’, ‘2’ and ‘Z’—that are primary red, green and blue light sources. As these signs move they reveal and irradiate the room with changing combined hues of the colour spectrum.

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Exhibition Record

1991/04/19 - 04/23 : Das Belebte Bild, Art Frankfurt, Frankfurt Messe, Frankfurk am Main, Germany

1991/10/23 - 11/23 : Machines à communiquer, La Villette, Cité des Sciences et de l´Industrie, Paris, France

1992/03/20 - 05/24 : The Robots, Nagashima Spaland, Nagoya, Japan

1992/06/17 - 10/11 : Anthologies, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France

1992/06/23 - 06/27 : Ars Electronica '92, Landesmuseum Linz, Linz, Austria

1993/09/18 - 11/17 : Künstliche Spiele, Medienlabor, Munich, Germany

1994/04/29 - 05/08 : Arte Virtual, Madrid Opera, Madrid, Spain

1994/06/06 - 06/08 : Interactive Media Festival 1994: Spark, Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles, United States

1995/03/08 - 03/15 : CeBIT 1995, World Center, Hannover, Germany

2003/04/29 - 05/31 : A Short History of Dutch Video Art, Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo, San José, Costa Rica

2003/07/17 - 07/27 : A Short History of Dutch Video Art, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain

2004/06/08 - 07/11 : A Short History of Dutch Video Art, Museo Patio Herreriano, Valladolid, Spain

2004/09/10 - 09/19 : A Short History of Dutch Video Art, Reykjavik Art Museum, Reykjavik, Iceland

2004/09/16 - 10/24 : A Short History of Dutch Video Art, Kunstcentrum Hengelo, Hengelo, Netherlands

2004/11/11 - 2005/01/14 : A Short History of Dutch Video Art, Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai, China

2004/12/30 - 2005/01/16 : A Short History of Dutch Video Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, Croatia

2006/09/19 - 10/29 : Masterpieces of Media Art from the ZKM Collection, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany

2007/10/21 - 2009/04/30 : YOU_ser: The Century of the Consumer, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany

2009/10/10 - 2011/05/08 : IMAGINING [email protected], ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany