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Looking at Art Through a Screen: Online Art Exhibitions

There have been efforts made to move offline art exhibitions to online spaces. Nowadays, with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many have decided to hold exhibitions online. In April, the Seoul Museum of History, which had closed due to social distancing regulations, opened 90 exhibitions online using virtual reality (VR). Through this article, The Sungkyun Times (SKT) will evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of online exhibits and suggest possible directions to take after the pandemic.

Everything About Online Exhibitions

Online exhibitions refer to art exhibitions available on online platforms. Typically, artists display their artwork in exhibition halls; however, online exhibitions are hosted through VR services, websites, and videos. In abiding with COVID-19 prevention regulations, exhibitions are increasingly being hosted online. Even undergraduate exhibitions have started to be hosted online. Last December, Dongduk Women’s University’s photography club, Purenjari, held their final exhibition using VR, the first as a college club.

-What are the Pros of Online Exhibitions?

Online exhibitions are convenient, as physical boundaries do not restrict them. The fact that one can access the exhibitions without spending time and transportation costs makes online exhibitions economical. Furthermore, online platforms allow one to appreciate an art piece as long as one may want without disturbing other guests. In a YTN interview, Yoon Seung-yeon, the promotion ambassador of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), said that online exhibitions “provide the public an opportunity to make art more accessible.” Exhibition hosts also find online exhibitions more convenient since they do not need to spend money to rent exhibition halls, adjust schedules, and handle accidents.

Obvious Limitations

1 l The Barrier of Technology

Technical drawbacks are the main reason some still insist on offline exhibitions. In online exhibitions, one can only see artwork through a screen, which prevents experiencing the art as the artist intended. In the case of offline exhibitions, everything about the artwork from the texture of the brushstrokes to the color and the material used for the artwork itself helps the audience understand the intention of the art piece. However, unlike conventional ones, online exhibitions require the audience to see the work through the lens of mass media, which adds another dimension to the artwork. For instance, one of the most famous works of Damien Hirst, a British contemporary artist, is The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. Could the experience felt in an offline exhibition compare to that of online? Furthermore, in the case of VR exhibitions, the image quality often drops when zooming in. According to an Art Insight review article of the VR experience hall of Pre-Rome, Etruria held in the National Museum of Korea, the image quality deteriorated when enlarged. The high-definition image provided separately did not allow the viewer to zoom in. Since modern VR technology has its limitations, online exhibitions are bound to encounter barriers.

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living by Damien Hirst (damienhirst.com)

2l The Barrier of Communication

Online platforms also prohibit the audience from sharing nonverbal communication and immediate reactions after viewing the artwork. The essence of art appreciation comes from exchanging art interpretations with others and building one’s point of view based on different perspectives. Even gasps that burst out upon seeing artworks create an interaction with the surrounding audience. This increases the sense of immersion, and therefore affects how one may appreciate the artwork. However, in online spaces, immediate reactions become rather hard to share. Although spaces in which the audience can write reviews on exhibitions still exist, because such spaces do not allow immediate communication, they are not sufficient to overcome this shortcoming.

Online Exhibitions After COVID-19

It is hard to tell what the future of exhibitions will be; however, there is certainly a limit to the type of artwork that can be displayed online. The limitations mentioned prohibit the act of hosting all art exhibitions in online spaces. Nevertheless, maybe other, newer types of art will be better fits for digital spaces.

-Improving Shortcomings

Online exhibitions have been developing rapidly, and ways to decrease their limitations have been discussed. Recent technology, which allows the user to experience all five senses within VR, will contribute to online exhibitions. Many exhibitions do not simply stop at visually appreciating works of art; they also often require the audience to contact and experience the works of art themselves. Therefore, this is an essential step towards the future of online exhibitions. According to ZDNet Korea, a local development team, the Realistic Exchange of Human Sensations Solution Research Center, is working on a VR platform for multiple users. In this platform, users will be able to share their senses and experiences. Even though the hampering of immediate communication and reactions is another major drawback of online exhibitions, this can be improved by preparing a separate platform for communication. Instant communication can be imitated by providing a chat window within the exhibition website, and this will allow the audience to exchange reactions in real-time. Additionally, forums may help improve the issue of communication. Such digital spaces will help narrow the gap between the artist and the audience.

Words of Prejudice, an Online Exhibition by the University of Seoul (wordsofprejudice.com)

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the growing number of online exhibitions has been drawing attention to the future of the exhibition business. Nevertheless, limitations in technology and communication serve as barriers to the development of online exhibitions. If a solution is found, we may be able to move in a new direction. The SKT hopes that this article has contributed to inspiring interest in online exhibitions for Kingos.

김재희  serenwogml@g.skku.edu

<저작권자 © THE SUNGKYUN TIMES, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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