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The Courtauld | Curating the Virtual

February 14, 2022 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

New technologies are taking over the planet. Art institutions will be transformed and collectors of art have discovered the world of unique digital objects, so-called NFTs.
Exactly how will today’s visual media — AR, VR and Mixed Reality — expand the ways we experience art? Will the virtual turn change art itself, just like photographic techniques and mass distribution once altered our understanding of what an artwork can be? Walter Benjamin’s influential 1935 essay on mechanical reproduction opens with a quote from French poet Paul Valéry: ‘We must expect great innovations to transform entire techniques of the arts, thereby affecting artistic innovation itself and perhaps even bringing about amazing change in our very notion of art.’
A little more than two years ago, I left my job as head of Moderna Museet in Stockholm, an institution with a strong art and technology legacy, to join Acute Art, a London initiative exploring new immersive media in collaboration with some of today’s key artists. It started with VR works by Marina Abramović, Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons and Ai Weiwei. Soon we moved on to augmented reality works that have been displayed across the world, from Beijing to Buenos Aires. Our most recent AR projects were launched in London: Koo Jeong A’s OLO, Precious Okyomon’s Ultra Light Beams of Love, and Lune by Julie Curtiss. These works are triggered by the QR the codes in the journal Catalogue. They were also installed on Cork Street in October. The first large AR show I staged was Unreal City.
Professor Daniel Birnbaum is a curator and writer. He is director of London’s Acute Art, a laboratory exploring art and technology. He is professor of philosophy at the Städelschule in Frankfurt and the author of numerous books on art and critical theory. From 2000 to 2010 he was rector of the Städelschule in Frankfurt and director of its Portikus gallery.
He has been a member of the board of directors of Frankfurt’s Institut für Sozialforschung as well as of Nobel Media, which organizes all events and productions surrounding the Nobel prizes. Between 2010 and 2018 he was the director of Moderna Museet in Stockholm. He was co-curator of the 50th Venice Biennale (2003), the 1st Moscow Biennial (2005), Airs de Paris (with Christine Macel) at the Centre Pompidou (2007), the 2nd Yokohama Triennial (2008), and Zero at Martin Gropius Bau (2015). In 2008 he organized 50 Moons of Saturn in Torino and in 2009 he was director of the 53rd Venice Biennial.
He is a contributing editor to Artforum. Among his most recent project are the VR exhibition Electric (Frieze New York, 2019) and the AR exhibitions Mirage (2020) at Beijing’s UCCA and The Looking Glass (with Emma Enderby) at New York’s The Shed and The High Line (2021).
Organised by Dr Pia Gottschaller (The Courtauld).