An emerging gallery in Cologne combines real life with virtual reality while introducing its first virtual venture.
The Art Newspaper’s XR Panel
What exactly is extended reality (XR) and how is it being utilized in art? We highlight the critique of several experts from various fields to discuss the cutting-edge digital work being created by artists and museums around the world.
Each XR review is different, as it focuses on a project’s ability to work seamlessly with various platforms and devices. It gives an overview of the project, its creators’ statements, some expert panel rates, and its medium-specific qualities.
Interleaving—IRL vs VR
For the group show Interleaving—IRL (In Real Life) vs VR (Virtual Reality), it marks the first step into the virtual realm for the Falko Alexander Gallery in Cologne. It used the 3D design software SketchUp to recreate the spaces of its two rooms. They were then extended by creating a separate exhibition space that is exclusively in the virtual sharing platform Mozilla Hubs. Three new digital floors were also added. These new floors were created to house the exhibition rooms on the ground floor. They can be accessed via a virtual spiral staircase. Digital shows are promised to be shown once done with each added floor.
The rooms will serve as temporary archives for the In Real Life (IRL) exhibition, allowing visitors to still see the exhibitions after they have closed.
Created by: Falko Alexander Gallery running on Mozilla Hubs
Where to find it: At Falko Alexander Gallery, Venloer Str. 24, 50672 Köln
Gretchen Andrew, Curator of the XR panel note:
Interleaving highly incorporates technology as a new tool of literal (and virtual) expansion and visualization.
I have this recurring dream about a room in my house that I never knew about. It has always left me with a positive feeling. This is why I selected Interleaving by Falko Alexander Gallery to consider by this panel. VR has been treated more like a medium and less like a distribution platform. In Interleaving, instead of just being a mere extension of physical space, it uses technology to add additional rooms.
In Real Life vs virtual reality – “IRL vs VR”, it is more an exhibition of space and objects that are both physical and virtual.
Interleaving is a joy to create, as it reflects the practices in the group show, including that of Chris Drange, who used social media to bring the ephemeral reality of social media back to the physical world.
“The exhibition architecture is designed in such a way that an interleaving between real and virtual spaces takes place.” – Falko Alexander Gallery
Interleaving is a project that combines a real group exhibition with a VR exhibition. The exhibition will take place on the MozillaHubs platform. During the exhibition, an interleaving between real and virtual spaces will be taking place.
The non-existent space in the gallery can be viewed through screens and projectors. Visitors can also walk through the wall to enter the digital space.
According to Jürgen Dehm, the exhibition is considered a promising step to introduce the new virtual world.
He clarifies that interleaving highlights both physical and digital artworks created by various artists. He adds that there are also artists who would like to cooperate with the gallery in the future. On the other hand, only Matthias Danberg shows digital wall pieces that reference and represent the digital sphere. Among the four works featured in the VR space, three of them are new. These works created by Marta Vovk, Michael Resch, and Chris Drange, stand out due to their minimal movements.
An on-site visit is ideal for discovering the texts and materiality of the analog works. The exhibition is also accessible through a virtual reality headset. The movements of digital works are presented in this way to help us understand them better. If an exhibition is accessed through a phone or a computer, its functionality depends on the device used.
Apart from the galley’s missing physical wall text, the digital version of the exhibition also lacks any labels or written information about the works. This makes it harder to identify the artists or learn more about their work. On sales platforms such as Artsy or NFTs, there would be a link to provide further details and explanations about the individual works. However, in the virtual space, this would not be possible.
The concept of interleaving encourages the use of both virtual and real space. For instance, allowing viewers to interact with the gallery’s walls, allows the experience to be enjoyed in the new virtual world.
The exhibition is a promising step in the evolution of virtual worlds. In the future, it would be great if the media-specific works were presented more boldly and showcased more critically. The goal is to create projects that combine VR and IRL. Artwork creators must give attention to providing information about artists and artworks, or simply creating an “archive” of older exhibitions on the higher, digital floors of the gallery.
Is it accessible?
Carole Chainon announces that the medium democratizes VR and makes it accessible to all equipped with a compatible web browser. She adds that this is her first review of the Mozilla Hubs and she can’t but emphasize how amazed she is by it. Mozilla Hubs is a 3D world where users can create their own 3D world. It is very easy to use and accessible to all. The medium is designed to work seamlessly with most modern browsers.
From a critical art-historical point of view, how good is the art?
Expert Dhiren Dasu declares that this show highlights interesting questions in terms of where art lives, and the ways to view it, own it, share it and eventually store it. All questions that digital art and the NFT space in the particular address in novel ways. The NFT link displayed on the gallery walls served as a sign of things to come in the future.
What medium-specific qualities of VR/AR does it employ?
Expert Jasper Spires explains that even though the upper floors of Falko Alexander’s gallery may await future work, the sense of exploration and discovery among the art has a utopian quality to it. It feels as if he was exploring the curator’s bedroom or some private collection.
Does it break new ground technically?
Expert Dhiren Dasu explains that the crossover from IRL to VR is groundbreaking and opens the door to a new sort of art that transcends locality and physicality.
What about the future of the medium/art form of XR within the art world?
According to Jasper Spires, the exhibition opens doors for a Piranesian gallery, which is currently unavailable in the real physical world. The exhibition presents an opportunity for people to experience an immersive, Piranesian gallery experience in the digital world. It represents a prototype for a boundless architecture in digital rooms, for one thousand floors higher than any concrete space.
The XR Art Newspaper panel’s ratings gave an overall panel rating of 4/5 stars.