Art in Cyberspace
"It doesn't mean you should—just because you can!" is a line from Facts of Life, a song by the rock band King Crimson. They make a good point.
Virtual Realities have been around a while now. Second Life, the first cab off the VR rank was launched in 2003 and it has a million users. The Open Simulator platform—a network of "grids" including Nuna's home grid 3RG—was launched in 2007, it's creators reacting against Second Life's commercial model with an open source server platform.
These virtual worlds are bristling with potential, most of which remains unexploited. First and foremost, they provide an unrivalled opportunity for people anywhere in the world to meet, socialise and form international communities. You do this with an avatar that interacts with its environment and other avatars. That environment is malleable. Using tools familiar in 3d modelling (primitives, mesh, textures, animation and scripting) you can build and inhabit anything from a space station to an art gallery... which brings us back to the warning issued by King Crimson: sure you can do it, but why? Let's explore that.
What's in a name?
Nuna (a landmass also known as Columbia) was one of Earth's ancient supercontinents. It existed approximately 2,500 to 1,500 million years ago in the Paleoproterozoic Era. Supercontinents are a clustering of continental landmasses. They are geological moments when the whole world is in one place.
That metaphor was irresistible to Nuna's creators. The aim of Nuna Gallery is to tell a different kind of story of art, one that stretches from the first traces of human artistry, daubed on the walls and ceilings of caves in Borneo and France, to the present day. Largely due to continental drift and the fragmentation of culture, that ‘big picture’ story can’t be transmitted in a regional gallery, no matter how grand or lofty that gallery is. The Uffizi can only tell the story of classical and Renaissance Italian art; the Louvre is necessarily focused on pre-modern European art; the Pompidou Centre on contemporary European art, etc. But here in Virtual Reality we can sew the continents together and explore art as a human product across the span of our species.
A virtual address has its benefits.
What's the value of this strategy?
Art is something that surrounds you. There's quite a lot of it around. Most people hang something on the walls of their dwellings. Despite this, a mystique hovers over art. We typically view our artists as present day shamen, the strange ones in the village who have visions and dance to their own drum beat. And in fairness, a lot of art has been created by individuals exhibiting unusual vitality and intensity. But that's not the only reason for that air of mystique.
The arts establishment goes out of its way to cultivate an exclusive climate around its product. The prices of masterpieces at auction bear no resemblance to actual value. The common explanation is rarity. But almost every single thing we create is a one-off. That's not really it. Art, in those circles, is the new gold. It's a clever way of concentrating and storing wealth.
Perhaps that's not a bad thing. We live in a commodified world and it would be strange if art wasn't a commodity too. And it makes a bit more sense to associate value with a creative enterprise than with a hunk of metal. But a by-product of this hijacking of art's social and interpersonal function is alienation. Contemporary art is an exclusive club. You have to pay to be a member.
In order to assign value to art, there has to be weight. That weight is supplied by art theory and a lot of art theory is inscrutable. It doesn't have to be. We, as a species, understand our own creativity without reading a postmodern treatise on the topic. That's not to say academic theories of art are bad—they add to the pool of knowledge and conjecture which is wonderful—but that they are too often inaccessible. No worthwile theory of art is hard to understand if it’s enunciated clearly. One way of clarifying the intents and motivations of artists is to view them in context. In the big context. The one that started with us decorating the walls of caves and gave us Banksy decorating the walls of buildings. Connective tissue is everywhere in art, it's just hidden in the details and the details are impenetrable.
So... what is Nuna?
Nuna is a resource. It's an international gallery in international waters. It's a non-profit—there are no entry fees, no running costs, no fund raising, and all the merchandise is free.
Nuna has an education focus. All the artworks on display are captioned and contextualised. Nuna's goal is to display art in context so that it can be better understood.
Nuna is an art gallery that exhibits living artists. It exposes artists to international audiences. We are not a dealer gallery and we don't negotiate sales or charge any fees. We are not a business.
Nuna is a small handful of people dedicated to arts education and a supportive virtual reality grid. You can support us too by becoming a member and spreading the word.Return to Essays