The fruitful frustrations of exhibiting art in the metaverse
by Sofya Chibisguleva
Sudden sound effects, flashy partner booths, disoriented-looking humans bumping into each other — to an unfamiliar user Decentraland's Metaverse Art Week looked more like a Christmas fair, rather than the Exposition Universelle it was envisioned to be. The familiar users shared this impression too. The reason — a paradoxically bodily exhausting experience of trying to find oneself in cyberspace. Literally. If Franz Kafka was to write his famous novel "The Castle" in 2022, he would surely title it "Decentraland".
As our guests and virtual exhibition curator Dr. Margarita Kuleva frantically explored the Museum District in search of the before mentioned exhibition, they couldn't help but feel the nostalgic tug inside their chests. "The visuals, the bugs, the endless searching sent us back in time, to the days of early computer quests”, says Margarita.
Coincidentally (or not), the TAEX exhibition title "Metaverse dérive: NFT Cities" calls for a drift of its own kind, a bit less frustrating one. However, back in the 1960s it was precisely the frustration which brought a group of architects, urbanists, and creative practitioners together in search for better, more intuitive urban solutions. The situationists were fed up with the predetermination and limited affordances of urban environments. So, they embarked on walks with no particular destination or goal in an aim to discover the fabric of urban speculation, from which cities of the future may be woven.
“In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there,” Guy Debord wrote. Even though our Museum District drift was facilitated more by software limitations, rather than visual attractions, it is symbolic that the history of spatial experience is circling back to frustration — a primary driver of innovation.
Finally, the visitors of our virtual talk who persisted found themselves in the TAEX exhibition. "An art show in such an environment prompts questions, such as whether we can embed contemporary art in games and other interactive environments, beyond the trivial 'virtual exhibitions'. The socialising which occurs in live gaming environments and its potency is what makes this thought especially exciting for me", noted Dr. Margarita Kuleva. "Who we are, where we are, and what 'space' and 'interaction' are in the metaverse expanse?" These are the questions no one will answer. Until extremely annoyed, of course.