Artist: Austin Allison
Media: Unity Program and VR headset
Although I myself am not entirely innocent of indulging in these types of trendy attractions on the information superhighway, I have become disheartened by its overabundance and dominance in the digital libraries and galleries of the Internet among my age group over other forms of more unique and traditional arts that push their respective mediums. For every post I see on my Facebook and blog pages of an amazing oil painting from an artist I follow that has only received minimal to no likes, I see a plethora of recycled and even stolen images of memes I’ve seen over a dozen times receive monumental amounts of praise and responsive reactions. Why recommend someone they check out the earlier works of Van Gogh who had probably never seen any of them before when you can send them yet another image of “Grumpy Cat”, right? In “Meme-seum”, I wanted to bring to light the possible disconnect between the enjoyment of genuine artistic efforts and trivial online images that has grown in “millennial” circles on social media over the past decade.
This concept was visualized in my project as a literal museum exhibition, complete with wall mounted works, statues, fellow patrons, and furnishings. As the viewer is taken down the museum’s hallway, they are free to look around the space and the pieces within it, simulating the experience of being a museum attendee. The viewer begins to see a steady degradation of the work on display and the digital space in which they occupy the further down the path they go. They start off in a traditionally designed museum, which turns into a more sterile white space further down the hallway, and finally ends as a vacuous digital void filled with formless bytes flying from the floor.
The works on display change from artistic works, to click-bait memes, then finally to just simple emojis and GIFs. This linear progression into the space represents a temporal march of the works on display in the museum and who is there to consume them. The viewer is meant to see an evolution from classical art windows to the digital frontier first hand. When they are greeted with the concluding emptiness, they will feel a stark contrast with the more refined and comfortable museum environment from the start of the piece.
I also wanted to convey a sense of poetic irony with this piece and my criticisms that fueled my concept. While my piece was meant to comment on the flood of new forms of digital images and their popularity among millennials, I am doing so by utilizing a digital medium. In addition to that, my desire to have more people on social media recognize and appreciate true art in photos or videos calls into question the true nature of experiencing works of art. If one is seeing a digital photograph of a painting, are they truly able to appreciate and experience the work as intended or are they merely staring at an online reproduction? This factors into my work in its being and its exhibition.
This piece was primarily intended to be displayed in a physical museum, forcing the viewer to reject the real art around them, the very thing I’m pledging for with this piece, to engage in a virtual museum experience. The works on display in my digital “Meme-seum” are also digital photographs, of course, and not physical entities.