Event Recap

Event Recap: Digital Discovery: Experiencing Art through XR

Aug 19
Alley Team
Event Recap

Event Recap: Digital Discovery: Experiencing Art through XR

Aug 19
Alley Team
Event Recap

Event Recap: Digital Discovery: Experiencing Art through XR

Aug 19
Alley Team
Community Over Everything

Event Recap: Digital Discovery: Experiencing Art through XR

Event Recap: Digital Discovery: Experiencing Art through XREvent Recap: Digital Discovery: Experiencing Art through XR

We may not return to museums for a while, but curators and artists alike have made a new digital discovery: the exploration of art through XR. XR is creating a whole new form of art exhibition. With this interactive technology, we can step into a virtual world of design, creativity, and innovation like never before. Not only is XR changing the UX, but it’s inspiring the way artists approach digital design. XR, coupled with 5G connectivity, has the power to create a whole new viewing experience, appealing to a whole new set of senses, and even making art more accessible, eliminating monetary, and physical barriers to entry. With this new digital canvas, artists have unlocked a world of possibilities.

Watch this recap as we hear from innovation curators, immersive artists, and interactive galleries about the potential that XR & 5G have unlocked in the art world.

Verizon 5G Labs:

Verizon's 5G Labs works with startups, academia and enterprise teams to build a 5G-powered world. We work on 5G trials, hackathons, industry partnerships, prototyping challenges and more.

Mentioned Resources:

Nancy Baker Cahill
4th Wall
Brendan Ciecko


Brendan Ciecko  0:00  
Thank you for joining us on your Wednesday afternoon. My name is Brendan Ciecko. And it is my honor to be your host for today's conversation, digital discovery experiencing AR art through XR. I'm the founder and CEO of CUCM, a company at the intersection of museums art and technology. So this is a topic I'm so excited to be here today with you to geek out on. Before we begin, we'd like to say thank you to Alley for creating the space to host these events. Alley is a community agency that unites rich and diverse communities around the country with corporate partners to provide the resources and catalysts to drive positive change in technology and the broader world. We'd also like to thank Verizon 5G Labs for sponsoring this event. For those of you who don't know about 5G Labs, they work with startups, academia, and enterprise teams to build 5g powered worlds. They work across 5g trials, hackathons, industry partners, prototyping challenges, and much, much more. But without any further ado, let's turn it over to our incredible panelists who are with us today. So joining us from the west coast of the United States, we have Mark Saab. Mark, why don't you introduce yourself, we'd love to hear a little bit about what you're up to in this in this world.

Mark Sabb  1:24  
Sure. Thank you, Brendan, for having me. Thank you, Alley. I'm really excited to be here. So, um, my name is Mark. I am the Senior Director of innovation and engagement at the Museum of the African Diaspora. We are a black Museum located in San Francisco. And I also found it in experimental internet slash digital art collective called FELT Zine. Yeah, that's pretty much me in a nutshell.

Brendan Ciecko  1:49  
Awesome. Awesome. Well, thanks for joining us, Mark. And quick, quick shout out. I was flipping through Forbes the other day, and I saw that one of your latest projects, rest in peace, white Jesus, which involves augmented reality, and algorithmically generated animations. Got some love. So just wanted to put put that out there. Congrats. Kudos to you. And thanks for joining us.

Mark Sabb  2:11  
Thank you.

Brendan Ciecko  2:13  
Joining us from across the pond, we have Ben Vickers, the Chief Technology Officer at the Serpentine Galleries. Ben, could you say a couple words about who you are and what you're up to?

Ben Vickers  2:25  
Yeah, as you said, I'm the Chief Technology Officer of the Serpentine Galleries in London, which is located in Hyde Park. My work there is like focus on the overall kind of digital innovation strategy for the institution, which is everything from developing artificial life forms to worrying about the you know, the kind of CRM and database of the organization. And I'm also a co founder of a publishing house called igniter, which publishes at the intersection of technology and magic.

Brendan Ciecko  2:56  
Excellent, thank you. And I've been a longtime fan of your work, and especially more recently, the serpentines Future Art Ecosystems report, you know, anybody interested in seeing how advanced technology, like what we're going to be talking about today will impact the art world that's kind of like today's one on one. So really excited to have you here, Ben, thanks for joining us. And last but not least, Nancy Baker Cahill, founder and artistic director of 4th Wall. And an extraordinary artist would love to hear a little bit about you and your backstory.

Nancy Baker Cahill  3:27  
Thank you so much. I'm really excited to be here. I am Nancy Baker Cahill. I also work at an intersection of fine art, media and activism. And as Brendan mentioned, I am the founder and artistic director of 4th Wall, which is a free AR, public art platform, which is dedicated to resistance and inclusive creative expression. So there are a number of projects that we've got going on, that I'm excited to talk about today. And I'm really just happy to be here with all of you.

Brendan Ciecko  4:00  
Excellent, excellent. I have to say, if you look back over like the last year or two, and there's an article about AR in the artistic lens, there's like flip a coin. It's like a 5050 chance. It's about one of Nancy's projects. So most recently in New York Times, LA Times a lot of love for Liberty Bell and a lot of your other projects. So it's always it's always exciting to connect with you. It's always exciting to have artists involved in these these dialogues. So I'm over, the flatteries is over. And now it's time for the questions. So before we kick things off, I just want to say a word to all of our lovely audience members joining from around the globe. Please be sure to drop your questions in the Q&A feature. And if the conversation compels you, there's this awesome, nifty chat feature on Zoom. Feel free to speak amongst yourselves. But we'd love those questions. So jumping into the topic today, let's talk briefly about the history. Have XR in arts and culture? When did you first see the potential of AR and virtual reality as an artistic medium? And when did you first start seeing it as an engagement tool in the arts and cultural space? So I want to start this off with Mark and then we'll we'll go around in a circle.

Mark Sabb  5:18  
Yeah, I mean, I think so I would say like, pretty much probably the first time I ever experienced like any XR, I feel like I immediately, like kind of saw the connections. Um, I think for me, too, one of the things that I think sort of shaped my view is that even at at MoAD, we have a gallery that's named after a black doctor named Ernest Beats, who, who actually sort of like funded the space, seeing a lot of what VR, especially VR could do in health, and wanted to sort of bring that to the arts. So I think for me, that sort of, like, always been there, right. And I mean, like, that happened in like, 2005. So I think immediately that that sort of connection was always there. I think the biggest thing that really made me get super excited about the space was probably the Oculus go and 2018 just because the headset is so affordable, as far as like, you know, VR experiences go. And, and so I just thought it was a really great entry point for usage and like penetration in that way. Obviously, it's not the most powerful, but I think it's like a really good starting point. So I would say sort of like been, they're excited about what could happen. But now I feel like things have just accelerated so much.

Brendan Ciecko  6:31  
Excellent. Thank you. And Ben, I know your fingers on the pulse of so many different ecosystems that you're involved with. When was the first time you started to learn about this emerging technology and think about its ripple effect on artistic practice curatorial practice the cultural field at large?

Ben Vickers  6:48  
Yeah, I guess I have to preface it by saying that I spent probably seven years of my teenage life in a virtual world. So I guess like for a very early age, I was like, always, like desperate for VR. And so there's some there's some really great early texts that were written. There's this great interview with Terence McKenna and Jaron Lanier, where they're talking about the potential. This is like 1991, talking about, like the potential of manifesting your thoughts and feelings through taking on a kind of octopus avatar, that communicate through color on their skin. And so, you know, disappointed that era didn't really work out. And then I think like the turning point was like, obviously, like the first Oculus headset, and having an opportunity in 2016, to work with Zaha Hadid architects. And we took like a series of paintings and like, transformed them into VR experiences. And this was like really a kind of very interesting turning point for the gallery, because suddenly, tech companies were chasing us to have like conversations, and that was like a real kind of spin. And since then, it's been super interesting, the kind of innovation that artists can bring to this space.

Brendan Ciecko  8:03  
Thank you. And it's amazing to look at how far the technologies evolved since the kind of the the year when AR was coined was 1990. And these concepts have kind of floated around philosophically for quite some time, but really looking at from that point to the, you know, to the maybe mid 2000s, as being like an acceleration point, and what an opportunity to collaborate with Zaha Hadid. That's That's incredible. And and Nancy, how about you?

Nancy Baker Cahill  8:33  
Well, like Ben, I, I first became aware of VR in the early 90s. Only I was, I learned about it in my political theory classes, we were learning about some VR more as a tool of political empathy, along the lines of what nonideal opinions incredible pioneering artists, and VR has done. And it must have stayed somewhere lodged in my brain. Because as I matured as an artist and rededicated myself in my practice, in my you know, as I got a little bit older, in Los Angeles, I, you know, I really came with VR for conceptual reasons. I look looking back I realize I, every time I made a massive drawing or an installation and immersive installation, or a video or sculpture, I was trying to put the viewer inside one of my drawings, and I kept kind of butting my head up against the wall. And finally, someone, a respected colleague suggested that I try VR. And like, Mark, I think when I tried it, I got the fever. I mean, pretty much immediately, I felt, oh, wow, this is I think I just found my medium, and began experimenting and drawing, and I had the great fortune of showing the work, the VR drawings. Ultimately, this was back in 2017, I developed all the VR work and then and you know, in using drawing in VR, creating these discrete fine art pieces, and I had the opportunity in 2018 to show them as public art billboards. And that was really the moment was awesome and I love showing it as public art because I was frustrated. But it was such an inaccessible medium to most people in terms of exhibition. And that was, it was terrific but I felt like well, but it's still isolated to this one place. What if we could explode that into some much greater into the atmosphere into into this other virtual world. And I work with Drive Studios were incredible. And with them, we developed the 4th Wall app, which was intended to make to translate all those VR. The original iteration was to translate the VR drawings into augmented reality where they still exist. It since it's you know, expanded greatly, but to to challenge ideas around public art, to challenge ideas around access. And that's that's how that came about.

Brendan Ciecko  10:45  
Amazing. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. And it seems in a lot of ways, like if I had to point to not specific to its impact on the cultural sector. But more recently, I know a lot of folks have cited Pokemon GO as being the mainstream driver of everyone knows now what augmented reality is, has a certain expectation around experience kind of merging the physical and digital world. And then of course, platform play, it was easier, faster, more affordable to dive into that world. So it's been really just like looking at the last couple of years, and how quickly things have been moving. And the types of artists that have, I don't want to say thrown their hat in the ring. But gotten involved and experimented with the new medium is fascinating. And Nancy's work is a great example of that. So over the past few years, what have, you know, what are some of the leading xR initiatives in the cultural space Ben, who are some that are at the forefront of designing and implementing these experiences, we'll try to have a little bit of fun here, you can talk a little bit about your work at your institution. But I also want you to introduce one or two others that are outside of your your immediate work. So it goes without saying the Serpentine is a leader in so many ways, shapes and forms, especially around XR. So I'd love to hear from Ben about what some of those initiatives are, and what some are, you know, what some initiatives are that you've had an eye on that are that are outside of, you know, outside of your circle?

Ben Vickers  12:18  
Yeah, I mean, I'll start by just kind of shouting out to like some projects that I really love. I don't know if they're like, the most popular projects, but I think I'm specifically like looking for a certain type of experience with VR, like a, I like it to really kind of take you kind of out of your body. So notice, Dominic Gonzales Forrester, in the Venice Biennale, early last year had a great work called ENDODROME, which was this, like very simple experience, where you're sat around the table, everyone's wearing a VR headset. And basically, the way that you move in the space and the way everyone else is moving in the space conjures a kind of different kind of color glow. And it was, you know, it was weird. It was a weird experience. And I think often in VR, you have this attempt to create like, very real experiences and actually doing something that's kind of otherworldly, I think is more interesting. And I think Karen Palmer's like RIOT AI work is really amazing, really incredible in terms of storytelling, but showing how the medium can bring a totally different message to the user. And then it also I think there are there's some classic works of VR, actually, if you go further back, like, in 2008, there was a work by Micha Cárdenas, which wasn't something that you experienced yourself, but was a performance called Becoming Dragon where they were going through their transition. And they replicated that as an experience in Second Life, where they spend a very long period of time in Second Life as a dragon. And I think this kind of like merging of, and thinking through of identity is a really critical to the VR space where you're like, embodying a different way of being. And then just like, very quickly, I think that maybe like one of the main kind of innovations that the Serpentine is brought to this is, is the thing that we're kind of known for internationally the best is that every year we commission, a new building, and we build it outside our gallery. Commissioning architects that haven't built in the UK. And one of the things that occurred to us that there wasn't a lot of people thinking about the impact of augmented reality on kind of urbanism. And so we launched a program called Augmented Architecture, we did it as an open core, we didn't restrict it to architects. And incredibly, we had like 350 people applied to this like made up discipline of working in augmented reality with with architecture and that bread like a lot of interesting new ideas. So that's the one project that I would shout out that we've that we've worked on over the last few years.

Brendan Ciecko  14:58  
Fantastic and Mark, how about yourself?

Mark Sabb  15:02  
Yeah, I mean, alright, so for me, I'll just like, it's so hard for me to think of like a project like artistically, but I guess like, um, I guess initiative wise, I do want to give this like, I think a shout out to 4th wall, 8th Wall. Um, EyeJack, I think for me, I'm really interested in a lot of the platforms that make it so that artists can can just think about the art and the creativity. And so I think that that's really important for XR tools to be able to do that. Of course, programming is important. Most artists who work in this, in this space can code. But I think that in order for the for the medium to sort of move forward, we sort of have to like be able to make progress there as well. My favorite analogy with this is that painters are not expected to also build their galleries. So, I think that XR sort of needs to move into that space as well. So shout out to everybody who's like, you know, sort of like working on the back end. So yeah.

Brendan Ciecko  15:58  
Excellent. And and Nancy, how about you? Who are some of the what are some of the projects that have really inspired you? Or who are some of the artists or platforms that you keep your eye on in this in this world?

Nancy Baker Cahill  16:08  
Well, yeah, I mean, like Mark, I can more speak to that space. And I'm so grateful to everybody who can do the development work. Like I've got to give a shout out to my team, Drive Studios. They've been extraordinary. They're fearless, which is key in this in this arena, just just having an unbridled imagination. But there are so many artists, I mean, certainly in AR I think of Marjan Moghaddam. She's incredible in AI. Sue Glen, I mean, I'm, I feel really lucky to call them colleagues and friends. And, you know, in terms of immersive storytelling, I think there's a lot of really interesting stuff happening. You've got Hyphen-Labs, what you know, kind of Dream Labs, you've got PussyKrew, um, Intimota. I also have to say I got it, I've got to say this here. Now, Peter Wu is an artist here in LA and he built the EPOCH Gallery. And, you know, he's, he's also pretty fearless. He just decided in quarantine, like, I'm gonna make a virtual gallery on my terms. And it's not going to follow any of the rules. And he's curated really rigorous, compelling exhibitions in that space, and been super inclusive with artists here, or I guess, everywhere, who don't necessarily work with these tools normally, but are thrilled to have their work translated that way. And I think that's also really exciting.

Brendan Ciecko  17:28  
Excellent, thank you. And I guess a couple quick kind of going off of a flash list. I know it's kind of exciting to see artists like Marina Abramovich not only checking the AR box, the VR box, but the the mixed reality box that's kind of extraordinary to see such a, an A list artists playing in all of those arenas, Jeff Koons on Snapchat, Apple, I think, you know, a lot of ways big tech has driven a lot of this. And it reflects, in some ways what Ben was saying earlier about big tech looking for inspiring use cases. So when you see the work, Google arts and culture is doing to bring art into people's, you know, everyday life. Apple with the Airwalks, which featured amazing artists like Nick Cave, and kind of brought them into the streets of New York. I personally have loved Laurie Anderson's a VR work Chalkroom over at Mass MoCA, and then a couple other institutions doing interesting work, I think the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, they launched what can be described as one of the first solely AR based exhibitions, which was the first use of Apple's AR kit in the cultural realm. And it was an iterative exhibition, Norman Rockwell Museum, kind of looking at older, traditional culture, um, you know, has put together an experience that immerses you in this very idealic world of Norman Rockwell. So it's been you know, I feel like a couple years ago, you could count, I don't know, 10 examples. Now, there's probably 100 plus in the hundreds of organizations getting involved. So shifting gears a little bit. We'll talk about some current projects and what makes this next segment more exciting than the last segment, which was of great excitement and joy, as we all are experiencing right now is we're going to have some visual aid. So we are going to hear from Mark, Ben and Nancy about some of the different specific AR and VR works that they've worked on. So just give me give me a moment. I'm going to pull up my screen, and hopefully the Zoom magic will work perfectly. Let me know if you can see my screen. Cool. Um, awesome. So Mark, will you will you kick us off with talking a little bit about three of the different works. They'll stream in the background and talk through what you were working on, a little bit background a little bit about the artists that we see here.

Mark Sabb  20:04  
Okay, yeah, for sure. Okay, so this is a so this is an exhibition that we had admired a few years ago was an exhibition that went by the name Digitalia. It was curated by Lady PheOnix of the Yes Universe for anyone who, who may follow her on on Instagram. I would say that the cool thing about this show was that like, we really really like, got to, like dig deep into like, really, like met art culture, especially a lot of black artists that were that were involved in that art. And I had known I have known Lady PheOnix personally. So it was really exciting to be able to have her as, as a curator and sort of like, bring these people who I knew from personal independent projects, into the museum as well. And so yeah, so this was an air exhibition, we did use the technology, EyeJack to do this show. For me, I would say this really came from a place of thinking about our audience, right. So our audience, especially for a museum is really young. They are primarily people of color, which means that they are like, very, very quick tech adopters. And, you know, a big part of my job is keeping them entertained and engaged. And this was essentially one of the one of the most engaged exhibitions that we've ever had for our community. So, so yes, this was Digitalia. And we've probably like, until this day, one of the most exciting projects I got to work on there, sort of, I guess, tooting my own horn a little bit. What was really cool was that I was also in the show, just sort of like, because just because of my relationship with the curator, as well as she's a fan of like, my personal art, and my project. So it was really cool. And a very interesting experience to work on an exhibition as both an artist creator and as a museum professional. So very, very important show and exhibition to me personally.

Brendan Ciecko  22:04  
Awesome. And I think it's such a great example of showing the, you know, the standalone, material object, and then the layering of a completely new experience as a as an enhancement as a as a shift as a different perspective. So really, really great to see that. And, Ben, you're taking it over to the Serpentine, and you've worked on a variety of different experiences. But can you talk a little bit about this particular work by Jakob Kudsk Steensen.

Ben Vickers  22:33  
Yeah, sure. Um, so this is actually the work that we ended up commissioning from the 350 applications for augmented architecture. And what it is Jakob had identified kind of different species in the park. So this is, this is actually the parakeets. So we have these green parakeets in Hyde Park, that no one's quite sure how they got there. And basically, he's created this kind of like abstracted sculpture and what you can't, but it's called the deep listener. And that's like playing I don't know if people familiar with Pauline Oliveros, who developed the kind of deep listening technique. And basically, the way that you moved around these objects in the park, the resonance of the sound that that species made, whether it was like a, these are reedbeds. So literally, like producing sound field recordings of the sound that reedbeds make in the wind. And then you would move around it and be able to listen to it in a very kind of subtle reverberation. So I guess I'd the thing to really highlight, and in this, probably the thing that really made this project for me, like to Mark's point of like, what it's, you know, what this technology can do in terms of visitor experience, is, what was amazing on the press day was normally you launch like a digital project, you put your website live, and you're like, you've been working on it for six months, and you're like, whoa, and it's like the biggest anticlimax ever. And what was amazing about this was like having 150 people, we didn't have enough phones for everybody like just being guided through the park having these experiences and having to cluster in small groups to like share the phone so they could experience the work. And yeah, that's that's what we're seeing here.

Brendan Ciecko  24:23  
Amazing. Thank you for sharing that I have to comment on all of the works that we'll be showing are fully immersive with the audio. But due to Zoom, it's not always clear if the audio can make through or if the levels will be too high. But for those of you at home, if you want to check out any of these videos, they're online and you truly are transported  and audio soundscapes are mesmerizing, especially with this one. Oh, thank you. Thank you for that, Ben. And Nancy, we have a couple of different works that will cycle through in the background as you talk through some of your more recent and past, you know, artistic projects.

Nancy Baker Cahill  25:04  
Yeah this. Thank you Brendan, this piece is called Liberty Bell and it was commissioned by the art Production Fund in New York. We first started working on this project over 18 months ago, and had no idea that it would no pun intended be as resonant as it is now. But Originally, it was conceived. The first sight was Philadelphia itself. Oh, here, you're looking at a piece, which I would like to get back to the Liberty Bell.

Brendan Ciecko  25:29
I'll flip back to Liberty Bell.

Nancy Baker Cahill  25:30  
Okay. Liberty Bell really was born out of this question of what is Liberty? What is this concept of liberty? What does Liberty actually mean? And my original inspiration was the cracked bell that is in Philadelphia. But I think certainly, in the age that we're in a pandemic of racial inequality, of racialized aggression and structural inequality, and racialized violence and disinformation. I mean, you know, climate change, voter suppression, I could go on and on. It felt I mean, of course, we didn't have the pandemic then and, and, oddly enough, this is one of those rare artworks you can experience now with social distancing. And all of the, the CDC guidelines were following, but this is a very personal and I'm in a passion project for me because I, we placed it in six different locations. It's definitely the most ambitious project I've ever executed with their support. And we wanted to trace the line from the genocidal colonizing origins of the country, all the way down to Selma, Alabama. It were the side of the voting in 1965 Voting Rights Act was enacted and you know, this is obviously an election year we knew this was going to be fraught year and so we launched it on July 4, and it will be up for an entire year. It's in Boston, Philadelphia, the Rockaway, three different locations actually, for in the Rockaways, Washington DC, as you see it here. And Charleston and Selma and I wish we could hear the audio because part of that immersive experience is the soundscape, which to me is every bit as important as the visual, and I the enormous fortune of collaborating with Anna Luisa Petrisko. And we designed the soundscape to mirror what's happening in the animation, which is to say, first a sort of loling of this abstracted bell, and then it becomes increasingly dissonant in a rhythmic and chaotic. And there's a lot more to say about the sound design but that was the the experience and you can see this and experience it through 4th Wall on site.

Brendan Ciecko  27:33  
Excellent. And can you talk a little bit about some of these other works that will, you know play in the background? And quick note and correct me if I'm wrong with with the Liberty Bell, if you go down to DC, that's actually considered an exhibition or, you know, co produced with the Hirshhorn Smithsonian correct. That's, like an even amazing to think about major established institutions, looking at this medium as being, you know, an equivalent to painting and sculpture and other such medium. So it seems like a lot has changed where maybe 10 years ago, that wouldn't be the case. So there's a lot of milestones being set. So, back to the works, Nancy, and there will be a couple of cycling through.

Nancy Baker Cahill  28:15  
Yeah, certainly innovative institutions like the Hirshhorn are thinking that way. Um, yes, the piece you saw a minute ago was called Margin of Error. It was developed, I exhibited that along with it was part of a column response for the Desert X Biennial in the Coachella Valley. And that piece you saw was geo located over the Salton Sea. And both pieces were really intended to be conversations around climate change. I just read Timothy Morton, these Hyperobjects and was very deeply influenced by that. And yes, this is revolutions. This is we place these over the visit to move this piece because of an embark. AR is so incredible, right? Because if you have some incident in the physical world, you can be nimble, you can move it. And we actually ended up having to do that there were sort of biblical floods that year. And our original site was turned out to be unsafe after that. So we moved it here. And it still worked conceptually, it still works just as well. And I felt really lucky that I didn't have an object a stationary object that I had to actually physically move or that would be destroyed by the elements. And I like the fact that AR also does very little environmental damage. Minimal, if any.

Brendan Ciecko  29:23  
Excellent, thank you. Thank you. Well, let's, uh, thank you. Thank you, all three of you for sharing a little bit about your works. I'm going to work back into screen freezone. So let me unshare and get back to things. Awesome. And hopefully for those of you at home is helpful to see a little bit of the work I think talking about something so highly visual, and interactive and animated. It's hard to just hear people talk about it without having an opportunity to see it. And that's just one step from experiencing it. So I hope that everyone will download some of these apps after and take a quick look. So kind of turning to the the very peculiar, unprecedented moment in time that we're living in today, where all of our lives have, in many ways shifted and pivoted towards a more virtual existence, if you will. I wish we were having this conversation in person in New York, you know, LA or the Bay Area, but here we are, over the the internet, due to the impact of COVID-19. And you know, goes to, you know, really look at how has your work? How has your practice? How is your institution been affected? And if you want to take this perspective on the art world, and kind of speak to the art world as a whole, what are some of the impacts you've seen from COVID in the art world as encompassing the artist, the institution and the market? Let's start with Ben, I'd love to hear some of the things that you're seeing and hearing in your world.

Ben Vickers  31:01  
It's a big question.

I mean, future ecosystems that you mentioned earlier, the great irony was we were meant to have our kind of launch event on the day that the UK went into lockdown. And so we postponed and it's very ironic, because a lot of the things that were kind of identified. So we produced this report. We spoke to a lot of people that are working in this area of art and advanced technologies. And was interesting, the time between, like March and July, was that a lot of the things that we talked about happening on like a two to three year cycle, as a result of the intensification of the digital space. And you know, you've seen tech companies have only boomed from this situation, is that a lot of that stuff is is kind of becoming true. So like things like the appreciation and recognition of video games, within the kind of artistic sphere, like everything that we've developed, most of the massive projects that you see are developed in video games, engines, and they take on that logic. So one of the things that's super interesting that's happening now is like a general acceptance within the art field, that video games are kind of a critical part of culture that have otherwise been kind of gatekeeper from the museum. And seeing that shift internally, and very senior people of various museums, being curious about that is fascinating. I think like a lot of thanks to Animal Crossing. I think that that, you know, represented a big turning point for a lot of people in lockdown. But then on a kind of practical level, in terms of the work that we do. We had, I mean, an interesting thing, where you've got this move from VR to AR, we had an exhibition that we had to shut by the artist Cao Fei, and it had a work in it that was made with VR. And when we reopen that show a month and a half ago, we switched it to AR. And I think that that's because you can't have people using headsets in the gallery. So that's like a that's also very interesting, like similar to Nancy's point of being able to move things around the fact that you have you develop these kind of assets or infrastructure that you can then repurpose into different contexts. I think is like one of the most kind of critical and interesting things. The last thing I would say is that, you know, US-UK situation is like very Europe-US situations are very different for the art sector. I think that the European art world is is facing, like some real challenges financially going into the future. I know that it's also the same in the US but slightly different. And so I think there are a lot of people asking questions right now about like, how can this technology, like support that?

Brendan Ciecko  33:48  
Yeah, that's absolutely the case. And like even looking at the art market, and looking at the concept of the the online viewing room, and major fairs, like freeze, for instance, and Art Basel and their press releases, making some statement around how AR or VR might be involved as a way of in enjoying and experiencing the work. So I'm starting to see that kind of coming from the commercial side. On the institutional side, I've seen some instances of exhibitions made available through you know, through the XR mediums and then you know, from the Cuseum perspective with with our hundreds of partners, we wanted to find a way to help bring these works into the homes of people that otherwise wouldn't be able to visit or even during the phase reopening aren't going to be able to revisit and roll out an app that people could. An app and it's an extension that people could take, you know, highlighted works from the collection and put them into their own homes in a very high resolution and high experience level. And so that was an Apple App of the app or the app of the day, a couple weeks back And that was just kind of looking at the reality of something that brings people so many. So much joy is taken away. How do you how do you at least create a, you know, way to fill that gap. And I know, there's so many examples happening right now. And there's so many things like also what Nancy has been working on that you can experience without putting yourself into into risk. So socially distant art viewing experience can be an AR, or at home VR experience

Ben Vickers  35:32  
One thing just to add there is one of the things that's been super interesting is the instant large institutions not being able to move as quickly as individual artists or smaller institutions and organizations. And I think that's extremely, like exciting and interesting in this moment, because the kind of incumbent gatekeepers of culture aren't able to necessarily dictate the terms on the moment in which everything is like on your screen or is like AR thing. I think that that's extremely exciting and is like, appropriately disruptive.

Brendan Ciecko  36:07  
Excellent, excellent. Well, before we kind of tie the bow on the COVID topic, we'll spend another minute on that. And we have a lot of other questions that we want to jump through and topics that we want to cover, Nancy and Mark, do you have any quick words of how COVID has impacted or changed the way that you're thinking about cultural creation? cultural, you know, distribution, if you will?

Mark Sabb  36:31  
Yeah, I just say real quick. I, you know, I think Ben spoke to it but I do want to give, you know, just an acknowledgement, I think, to museum workers, right. Like, I think there's been a lot of loss, right, like people have had to make cuts which has been difficult. And like everyone said, the work has increased tenfold, even if your work isn't digital, working digitally, for some people is really difficult. And so you know, just recognizing that I think is important. At the same time, I would say the positive side is that our audience is more accepting of XR and digital, just like experiences than ever before, that's been really inspiring, and has been super inspiring to you know, meet with meet with our education department, meet with curators who, you know, traditionally either not people who are necessarily embrace new technologies the most, but now they're the ones who sometimes are like bringing up XR technologies before I even say it. That's super exciting. So I think that it's been a hard time, but it's also created really new opportunities, especially in the museum space. So you know, jarring polarizing to save at least.

Brendan Ciecko  37:37  
For sure. And so talking a little bit about the the art the artist and the user experience around that, Nancy, you know, this leads us to a conversation about innovation and technology, we can see how technology has accelerated just about everything around us the way that we experience the world communicate, you think about creation, think about the the exchange of ideas. How much of this is created, from an artist first perspective, what artists have, you know, what do artists have to do to utilize this technology in their art? So I think in a lot of ways, many people are probably really interested from your artistic practice he started the computer or do you start in a physical capacity? Where does that that translation start? And if you were speaking to an artist at home that's interested or a creator? who's interested in producing works in these mediums, kind of where would you Where would you want to start?

Nancy Baker Cahill  38:38  
I would advise, first and foremost not to engage with these technologies unless there's a compelling conceptual reason to do so. I think we all of us who work in this arena, as wonderful as these technologies are, and is powerful, the kind of sorry, my phone. They're powerful tools, we all can acknowledge that they are also instruments of surveillance. And there are a lot of complicating factors around them. And you have to be aware at all times of the kinds of questions you're engaging as you as you go about this. Now, that said, I think artists are uniquely positioned to use these tools in ways that are unexpected or unorthodox, innovative, and and subversive, at least I'll speak for myself on that one. And so that's I would just encourage people to not be intimidated. As Mark referenced earlier, this is a collaborative essentially a collaborative medium. There are rare artists, and I mean, total respect, who can do who have that beautiful left brain, right brain balance, but to me what is primary and what has to come first is the rigor of the idea how compelling is the idea? And if that idea is going to be even more compelling, realized with a greater immersive breadth and potential, then then absolutely do it and find you know, there are so many incredible communities online. Look at the kaleidoscope fund, all these different networks, I'm sorry not fund. There are all these different ways you can connect with people. And it's still a new enough community, that it's open minded. It's actually in some ways very different from a traditional art world that way. So that's what I would say on that.

Brendan Ciecko  40:18  
Excellent, thank you. Thank you. And it was almost like, right, when you're about to call out big tech, you got a text message that's like, hey, Nancy, if you're thinking of calling us out, we've already sent you a ping to your phone, because we knew you were thinking it. Anyways, I know, we only have about 15 minutes left, and there's probably several hours worth of conversation that we could go into. So you know, so much,to unpack and so much to analyze but what role do you see digital access and XR playing in the way that people from artists, from curators from the general public, and how they conceptualize and even define art, and experience with art, because I think in a lot of ways, if we go and we talk to our grandma or grandpa, and we say this is art, I think for a lot of people, it's completely a, you know, there's a lot of true art in a lot of ways. So has to shake away this this tradition, this, this formal nature of it all, where people think something is art, and something is not art. So how do we, you know, look at all of this and say that this is just as important. This is equal too. This is just a completely new medium. And the concept or definition of art isn't defined to the things that you maybe see in the museum. So Ben, from the institutional side, I'd love to hear your perspective on that.

Ben Vickers  41:43  
I guess, I, the way that I look it up is that there's many things that are shown in the museum today that we're not recognize as art like 100 years ago, 200 years ago. And often those institutions are about kind of, sort of like reclaiming or restoring history, but after the fact. So I think that the key thing I would say is that it kind of doesn't matter. It's only really the kind of institutional mindset that sets down these kind of categories, because that's necessary for it to be able to see it and explain it within its own lexicon. And actually, as you know, what we've been seeing happening over the last 10 or 15 years as a result of the internet, is that people are less concerned with those kind of categories. And these things will just continue to be made. And the fact that people can artists, makers, however you want to identify can go direct to audience now. I think many of those kind of questions will like fall away in the future.

Brendan Ciecko  42:44  
For sure. And I think in some ways, we're kind of saying to quote Bertolt Brecht that art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it. And I think if we add a couple of words and move them around, and we change reality to virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality, we can update it for 2020 and say that it perhaps, you know, is being redefined right now and constantly changing. And Nancy, how about how about you? How are you kind of thinking about about that notion, as well, especially as an artist who has works that are completely independent of the institution with the institution getting, um, you know, picked up by the tech publication to the art world publication, kind of a lot of different worlds having different perspectives about why it is so exciting to them?

Nancy Baker Cahill  43:30  
Well, I find categorization in any type of boxing in just repellent from the jump. So, you know, and I think about the kind of artifacts that I'm drawn to personally and personally as an artist, they tend to be genre genre defying, I think that there has been said, you know, even just treating games like taking away, to be blunt, the snobbery around games and understanding that there's tremendous artistry, and intention, and opportunity within those frameworks. They're constantly growing. It's there's no fixed point. And I like that. I think that that's the kind of wild west of it and the opportunity of it. So I guess that's how I feel.

Brendan Ciecko  44:13  
Excellent, and kind of shifting to one of the kind of key components of engaging or rather, a kind of frontier technology and something that's definitely driving forward a lot of possibilities. What's next, what comes next? How is the world enabled by some of these things? And the very fact that Verizon 5G Labs have been, you know, critical in the organization of this, this discussion today and a supporter of so many different technology initiatives. Now, obviously, 5G comes with welcome you know, welcome arms to the XR world with its low latency, reliability and just ultra high speeds around it. So in a lot of ways, one could say we could facilitate a frictionless world where instead of waiting for that file to buffer, or that or that app to load, you're able to just kind of turn it on and engage. I'm curious, from all three of you. What do you anticipate as being the impact of technologies like 5G that make kind of instantaneous delivery possible, streaming XR, streaming AR eliminating some of those gates and those barriers?

Mark Sabb  45:30  
I can jump in. I mean, yeah. So I mean, I think well, really a lot of what you said, right? So like, I don't even know if I can express, you know, how many ideas are limited by people worrying about this, right, like, by people just being like how is this going to load? Is it even going to work right? So, I think breaking down that barrier is extremely just liberating from, I think the point, especially of what Nancy said, being able to be idea focused first, right? And I think it even connects to your last question. Because if I think if XR is going to be continuingly, you know, and maybe even at some point, the prominent you know, art form, then we do have to really move from a point of it being like, cool or novelty, to really just centering like the art and telling deeper, more engaging and more immersive narratives, right. And I think that there's actually a mirror with this when we look at photography, right? Like, photography was interesting, as a new technology film was interesting, as a new technology, and it really took the film and photography being more accessible to both creatives and the audience for that to really like break down. And, you know, I mean, honestly, it really is a new, it's new that that museums have embraced photography and film as as real art, right, and not just a means of production. That's, that's, you know, more commercial. So I think that i think that that's really and I think, interestingly, 5G will play a huge role in getting us to that point of acceptance truly.

Brendan Ciecko  47:10  
Thank you. Thank you. And I know we only have a couple more minutes to spare. So we know what is a final thought or idea that you'd like the audience to reflect on a little bit more, that could be something from this conversation. It could be something that maybe we didn't even cover here today. But what is something that you'd want to leave everybody who's tuned into this conversation today, that's trying to wrap their head around, you know, XR as a as a mode of artistic expression, as you know, consuming and experiencing culture? What's something that you'd want to leave the world with today? Nancy, let's start with you.

Nancy Baker Cahill  47:45  
Well, this is, I wouldn't say it's off topic, but it's related to our moment. And what is related to our moment is that I think we can all get a little intoxicated with all of the potential in that, and I think that's appropriate at times. But I would just encourage and urge everyone to educate yourself as much as you can about cybersecurity. I'm working on a project right now, hopefully, that will launch in December that is a campaign to educate people around these issues. Everything from what you do on your phone to the hardware you're using when you're creating an NVR. These all have actual implications, real life implications as they relate to surveillance, capitalism, and other technological infractions and invasions of privacy. And I think in a moment where our privacy and where we are being mined for our data without our consent or knowledge, and at a time where there are tremendous abuses in terms of bias algorithms and surveillance technologies used against protesters. I think it's a really important thing to understand what you're doing and what you're getting into.

Brendan Ciecko  48:49  
Thank you for

Nancy Baker Cahill  48:50  
Sorry not much about art but

Brendan Ciecko  48:52  
It's interesting to think about how you can use the tool to fight the tool in so many ways, and I think no one is no one's disputing the importance of being educated and a more educated, you know, population and society around technology in general, and the implications leads to a healthier society. So I love the way that you're looking at that and looking at how art can play a role in raising awareness and that's critical. Ben, how do you how do you respond to that? And also how, you know, what is your your idea that you would want folks to bring home with them?

Ben Vickers  49:25
Yeah, I mean, I would second, Nancy, in terms of operational security is everything. Definitely, you should everybody should learn those basic skills, in terms of using any kind of technology is the thing you should do first. And I guess the thing that I felt like potentially is, like maybe the next conversation or was missing from this conversation that maybe ties things like 5G and immersive technologies together, is you know, some people refer to as the metaverse but the reality is that the next internet is being built now. And A lot of that is going to be contingent on spatial computation. Immersive reality layers layered on top of reality that are persistent, that are shared. Personalized reality where you'll be, you know, right now you have filter bubbles in your social network, in five years time, we're going to have filter bubbles in the same room, because you're going to be seeing different things through your glasses. And I think that's something that we should be thinking about. And the thing that I would headline is that that is a purely aesthetisized space. And the artists are perhaps the best place to bring a much more plural approach to thinking through how we produce something that isn't a total monoculture. And I think that we're at a critical turning point, you know. We did web 2.0 and it's kind of boring, and there's a lot of surveillance, and it all looks the same. So like, we're at a turning point. And we can either build a boring white box for the next stage, or we can do something totally different. And I think that is really critical, the tech companies pay attention to artists and give them the platform to like, play out entirely different imagination.

Brendan Ciecko  51:14  
Thank you for those inspiring words, Ben, and Mark, how about you? What is the one thought takeaway idea that you want people at home to you know, hold close to them, as we close the conversation in a couple minutes?

Mark Sabb  51:27  
Yeah, I would just say like, you know, whoever you are, you know, if you're thinking about getting in this space, please just bring your full self and your full perspective. And like all of the multitude of who you are. Being involved in XR, being involved in the crypto space, being involved in like the meme art space, you do see like, very quickly, you know, these these things get driven to a place that very quickly and very easily, that can be very negative, that can be very closed minded, right? Even though these are supposed to be like new, exciting things, they can they can get pretty scary. And I think the only way to fight that back is if if all of our voices are heard, and all of us get out there. So I would just say like, whatever you're thinking about doing, come to it with your full self, and find a way to get that message out. Because as everyone says, when it comes as Nancy and Ben said, when it comes to security, when it comes to where these technologies are going on, it's important that all of our voices are heard. I mean, you know, in the US, I mean, I guess globally, we're dealing with, with you know, reckonings that have to deal with, that have to deal with sexuality, with with gender with race, and I think that, you know, we have the opportunity right now to make a new future. And if we make a new future, as we all alluded to based off those old rules, it ain't gonna be much better no matter what, what goggles we're wearing on our face, right? So and the only people that can change that are us and and we can force that to happen now. So join us, just let's go. Let's do it. And and I think that that's the best thing we can all do.

Brendan Ciecko  53:04  
Well, will sign me up for the Mark Saab foundation for science and technology. And I'll be there. Thank you. Thank you for that, Mark. Thank you, Nancy. Thank you, Ben. And thank you, Mark. This has been a really energizing and inspiring conversation. I know there's so many different ways conversations like this can go because there's so much ground to cover when you're merging together, you know, art and technology, culture and this very unique you know, unprecedented frightening however you want to describe it moment that we're that we're living through that we're persevering through. So I want to thank all of our speakers today. And I want to thank you our audience for joining us for an hour out of your day on Wednesday to hear a little bit about the world of XR and art and culture. This conversation has been recorded and we'll be available tomorrow quick note back up this conversation has been recorded with the written permission of Nancy, Ben, Mark and I all kidding aside, and it has been recorded it's going to be available tomorrow if you'd like to share this content we're gonna revisit this content on and share it with your communities. I know we named dropped a lot of different projects and initiatives. It's a wealth of material if you are looking to jump a little bit deeper into the topic, but uh, you know, tune in at the alley.com or verizon5g labs.com if you are interested in 5G, you're interested in conversations like this that bring together different worlds and communities and until next time, thank you. Be well stay safe and go create some art.

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