Immersive technology has a great deal of potential for enhancing many different industries. Videogames, education, architecture, healthcare and training applications are already very common, but there are many other areas in which we’ve only scratched the surface. Art in particular is one such area in which augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can offer a variety of distinctive benefits, and at the recent 2nd Annual UNFOLD Art XChange Art + FinTech summit that took place from the 7th-9th March 2019, at the Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre, as part of the talks program for the 4th edition of ArtBAB, Bahrain’s international art fair, under the patronage of Her Royal Highness, Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of His Majesty, The King of Bahrain, President of the Supreme Council of Women in collaboration with Tamkeen, a selection of panelists were gathered to discuss the current positioning of immersive technology within the art scene, and what could possibly be part of the future agenda.
VR in its current form – as evidenced through a specially curated Virtual Reality corner by UNFOLD Art XChange powered by VIVE Arts and MSI at ArtBAB – proposes two very different uses for art. The first is as a tool to showcase and educate viewers about specific pieces and collections. Panelists Joel Kremer and Sylvain Levy, creators of The Kremer Collection and dslcollection, respectively, have used VR to deliver a detailed appreciation of their collections. Offering a grand scale and relaying information concerning the creation of each of their pieces that would suffer in comparison within other mediums – be it the viewer’s relation on a traditional monitor or an inability to travel to museums or other venues – both The Kremer Collection and dslcollection present a series of works to a much larger audience than would otherwise be possible.
Of course, VR is a medium in and of itself. Panelist Jens Faurschou, Co-Founder of Khora Contemporary, has invested in artists wishing to use VR not to display their existing works, but to create entirely new pieces which can be viewed only in a head-mounted display (HMD). Using videogame engines and art tools, artists who typically work in more traditional mediums are able to experiment and find new ways to purvey their message. Faurschou discussed in detail his belief in VR not just as a technology, but as an opportunity for new, immersive artworks from existing artists.
The panel also featured Bernadine Bröcker, CEO & Co-Founder of Vastari. Bröcker is using VR for an entirely different purpose; to ease the design and construction of art installations. In the first instance this is through creating low-level models demonstrating how an installation may appear within a museum, however Bröcker also has aspirations to use VR (or potentially AR) to allow her team to remotely view a venue prior to even beginning the design process, thus having a greater appreciation of the space and any restrictions that they may encounter.
The closing panel at the Art + FinTech summit, VR as a Game Changer for the Arts: How Collectors and Museums are Exploring New Audiences, Business Models and Creativity through 360 Experiences touched on all of these subjects before diving deeper into the true potential of AR and VR for Art. As a common consideration across the board, once the encumbrance of encouraging people to don the HMD has passed the possibilities of what can be achieved through the convergence of VR and art have not yet even been imagined, let alone realised. The truth remains that – although the Art + FinTech summit brought together some of the world’s greatest pioneers in the space – they are just that; ‘pioneers’. Before too long there will be more creators and art aficionados paying increasing attention to the capabilities of AR and VR; adding to an already impressive array of implementations of the technology.