curation

art gallery

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i had been working on this game for a while, posting to twitter regularly at the time- my aim was to create a sort of 3dimensional room to install digital artwork.
around this time NFTs were gaining notoriety too. I felt it was at least relevant or interesting to work on this idea and make it real. i love the idea of tangible virtual spaces that have purpose or atmosphere. i was just finishing up a two year curation residency, after graduating me and a few friends were given a gallery space to host exhibitions... it was fun, exciting, but the space was a basement gallery, full of damp and mould, it was trash really. but it felt like something. so i photoscanned one wall of the gallery space and i was going to make it into a virtual gallery.

this wasnt my first time trying and failing to do this- i wrote about my experience doing VRChat art gallery here: https://d48bc053-7c66-4794-971d-1fdc40fa85fc.filesusr.com/ugd/a5eb28_8004c9a6388f4ce99b741cd8230695de.pdf
( as part of this publication: https://www.softspotsoftspot.com/sso3a )

tldr it was a similar failure, in truth i guess not many people share this weird dream i had of art galleries being monasteries or institutions for experimental thought & practice... maybe people can 'feel' it, but they can't get involved, they have ther more tangible things that burden them. and honestly the more i did these things the more they felt like a burden, thats why im writing here, for some catharsis maybe.
a 'white cube gallery space' is a type of interior design (?) or something that is adopted by most art galleries. they are devoid of character, and devoid of life maybe- its kind of the point, so they dont interfere with the work. but to pretend like white cubes really exist in a vacuum is just pure unbridled fantasy, and it does more harm than good- me, a young graduate doing a vague unpaid internship was sold a life as a fantasy. and i didnt make anything good out of it. both myself and the system i was a part of are to blame.
working digitally i met the same issues as in the physical space. these issues were mostly, audience and publishing, who and what is being platformed, identity of the space & how it exists- as a 'thing' and in peoples lives.
physical space- almost entirely attended by art graduates being sold the same fantasy (i also use the term dream, but honestly, no one dreams of this), mature people who have doubled down on the fantasy, or have nothing else to value higher than this... and very rarely, one or two alienated members of the public, too nervous to engage. i think its completely hostile to that sort of person. and they are total aliens, its hard to explain, they move through the space and people move around them, like they arent part of this fake world, maybe im actually jealous of them.

tldr art galleries in modern times exist as a hostile liminal pseudo-environment that is riddled with challenges and fundamental issues.
i enjoy sculpture parks, art in open air, the experience can feel slightly more sincere, but that may be my personal bias.

in 2018 we held an exhibition in a disused bank- it was being sold and in the process of changing hands, and in the UK, theres a bit of a subculture around abandoned spaces and squatting laws that permit / provoke people to engage with them. so you have little events managers holding raves or lock-ins where everyone stays inside and gets smashed and does a load of drugs. but in galleries this type of fun is Not Allowed because everyone is upholding that hostile pseudoenvironment rule. (not to say that either is better than the other)
we basically talked to the guy who was hosting events in this space and got to install work there, there were like 5 of us and the space was HUGE, had everything- vaults, underground vaults, back tea-room, front area, lil offices... buildings are made of bones, and organs, and they all function like a living thing when we move through them. this space, its bones had so much character, it feels fulfilling to exist within that. knowing its all been picked clean lets you see it in the new perspective, lets you understand everything a bit better. this experience is probably the most valuable part IMO
we had projections in the vaults, we recorded videos in the basement and played them upstairs, cosmetic sculptures around, narrative-led artworks in offices, a whole installation in the main foyer, performances in the tea room. we served drinks out of the tills. it was actually good, now im writing about it, that felt really good. this was before we were given the actual art space, and i think it was probably the most exciting part of anything we did, even if we didnt know at the time.

we had a lot of benefits helping us tho- we were still connected with the graduates above us, as well as ppl in lower years, it was very local and easy to get to, properly unique interior space, solid work involved. it would be unrealistic to imagine that a similar thing of that scale could happen again and receive as much attention. it was a one night thing, be there or be square.
(sidenote: we had a lot of random people attend this bank show and actively engage with us, other people, and the artwork on show. they had been to other events in the space etc. so cultural diversity was high i guess. this essentially never happened at a 'real' art gallery, where the crowd was always the same)
maybe in a big city that depends on its subcultures, you could convince a relatively large crowd to visit something similar- i think of that 2015 noisey video about UK raves, how you have these old-heads committed to their vision of the scene, racking lines on CD cases in the back of cars, in some backwater car park in wales... contrasted with wealthy london young people desperate to be cool, doing pills to dance then balloons on the floor in a white room. in the vid, the guy talks about the latter as if its the mecca of raving, (in fairness it probably seemed good compared to the other options) but after i watched it, i was hit with this pervasive thing, i cant describe, i guess it made me face my meager relationship with subcultures in general ... im still not over it, cant quite figure it out.

one of our aims as a collective was to facilitate collaboration / conversation with people in a range of mediums. this was essentially impossible to do and we fell into a rut of googling artists and picking ones we liked the look of. if anyone in my real life heard me say that, they would hate me for it, but it is the sad truth.

i like virtual environments and building them because it does allow me to explore headspaces and thoughts i have from a new perspective, as i get older and my responsibilities change this can get muddy. i start thinking i need them to do something or there should be an outcome i can hold up and be like "i did this, its like this, and it works".
so back to this art gallery game, it went nowhere and still is nowhere, after seeing things like Art Skool on nintendo switch and cyber.io NFT art galleries, my milk turned sour you know what i mean? then i think, maybe i should apply myself to these things and provide my thoughts to them, but for some reason im not going to do that. im a bit of a weird hoarder in terms of the things i make, i cant put them down even if theyre garbage, i still hold them up and mount them in my brain as if they have value.
my idea was to have an open-house virtual art-gallery environment that's free to use by anyone for whatever they want. i quickly realised that no one really wants this, even if they think they do; the real-life equivalents is not better, is less desirable, and requires more effort. my real life experience curating gallery spaces, its incredibly enriching to install in the bones of something old, with a relationship to diverse subcultures. joining altgame community i hoped i could have something similar happen but whatever i was doing wasnt right. maybe too rigid, too reductive, too bland, too hostile to facilitate engagement. but i sitll have it in me. the title for the game was originally 100rooms, then underground gallery, now its abandoned (and not in a cool way).
i sometimes think about tiktok and roblox, or these types of metaverse(EUGH) platforms , and wonder if they are for me. but i feel like they are not. gamedev twitter is a lot of shilling, no hate to anyone, i guess free-market means you have a LOT of desperate traders. and its exhausting, especially if you want to see this stuff as artistic, creative, spiritually valuable, to have so much murk to wade through. i guess this is why curation is crucial, because it allows the audience to be free from the burden of over-saturation, makes things comprehensive.

but how do you curate in an ethical way, on a philosophical level, and how do you apply that as logic / formula to these platforms that capitalise on free-market, so don't really want it to happen? they always just let algorithms do it? like, if you could curate roblox, you can no longer tell every kid that they can make it big and go pro because its demystified- either someone is pulling the strings, curating the popular stuff and is responsible for the fame, or the systems and feedback loops that we are vulnerable to become obvious. at least thats how it appears.
with free games YOU are the product - no joke. you are at the mercy of brain chemical induced feedback loops. LoL, Valorant, Apex, Warzone all run on the same chemicals and they are proliferated by all the people who freely give their time to these experiences. Adopt Me on roblox has lootboxes too. i thought it was just a fun roleplay where kids were being kids (like when i was a kid, watching other kids play Family RP in Blockland) but no, turns out its heavily gamified via dopamine loops. i dont know what to think of this, something tells me its all wrong. but maybe if its fun theres nothing wrong with it... but maybe these games become institutions and they rob their players of other more enriching experiences. i dont know.
i also resent the systems that guilt their consumers in order to make sales, or weaponise their independence. i just feel like grassroots as a USP is just as bad as a marketing strategy.

i wish we were free online. we can be whatever we want, and we choose to drag these terrible things in here. like imagine walking through a monastery with your dirty shoes, claiming you're a monk, keeping your shoes on, and never sweeping up. saying that the dirt belongs there, because dirt is on the ground. maybe its unrealistic to think of cyberspace as a spiritual place.

i dont feel comfortable with the term curator, i barely am one. im barely an artist nowadays too. not sure if this is the place for this type of writing, or what exactly im trying to do, but at least im trying. we can be glorious trainwrecks

next game? go again? extra LIFE? hopium??

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