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VIRTUE(AL) 3.0 - 3D virtual exhibition by ARTO Movement

VIRTUE(AL) 3.0

Wed, 05/18/2022 to Sun, 06/12/2022

curated by:

Virtues and Virtual in the context of the Artworld

ARTO Movements’s annual Virtue(al) exhibition was first launched at a very strange time of our lives: the beginning of a worldwide pandemic. March 2020 saw most of the world move to the confines of our homes as our front liners fought against this deadly disease that claimed the lives of many. As disorienting a time it was, the arts, like most industries, sought out alternative ways to soldier on. Virtue(al) 1.0 and 2.0 acted as a channel for mid-career and emerging artists to exhibit virtually amidst the chaos that shut the physical doors of our galleries.

But we have heard enough of the pandemic, for it’s been written and spoken about tirelessly and is quite frankly old news. As we enter the second quarter of 2022, we are greeted with a sense of moving forward. Many of us have emerged with a reconstructed approach to our realities as we engage with a hybrid model of the virtual and physical experiences in the arts.

The exhibition title, ‘Virtue(al)’, is a play between the words of Virtue and Virtual – what do these terms mean to the contemporary art world and how is it relevant to ARTO Movements’s efforts in bringing these artists together virtually?

Virtues in the Art World

Broadly speaking, virtues can be understood as character traits and behaviours that are morally excellent. These character traits can include gratitude, compassion, creativity, and integrity, among other things.

Reflecting on the word virtues in the context of the arts, the question is, can art act as a channel for virtuous means? Can it foster a virtuous society? Historically speaking, the role of art has evolved and morphed to fit the ever-changing society we live in. Over time, it has been associated as a form of communication, a symbol of enlightenment, a channel for activism, as well as a means for moral improvement. Examining the virtues of art on a surface level, the disposition to create, and appreciate, are some of the traits that make up a virtuous character. While the intrinsic values of art are indeed subjective to every individual, it is curious to wonder what it is we truly seek as individuals by engaging with art as creators and spectators – what are the intentions and motives behind art?

With the commercial aspect of art, while its role is understandably necessary, there is always the danger that art could be so far instrumentalised that the potential of its innate values be buried. Perhaps, something to reflect on is how does art serve us today? Does it contribute to the development of a virtuous society, and should it be expected to?

Arts in the Virtual World

The word ‘virtual’ has become an increasingly common term in our vocabulary today. The concept of virtual exhibitions, residencies, and communities is a cross between intriguing and peculiar. From creative collaborations with people you have never physically met, to buying art as non-fungible tokens – the landscape of the art world has evolved in comparison to just a decade or two ago.

In that vein, it seems appropriate to contemplate what going virtual has meant for the contemporary art world. It has indeed had its positives – to a certain extent it was able to overcome the barriers of location and allowed for an international audience. With social media platforms utilised by many art organisations, institutions, and practitioners, the digital realm became the first point of contact for many people both within the art circles as well as the general public. It has become an alternative for staying connected without having to be physically present for events.

Going virtual has also had a more positive impact on the art world; it has significantly decreased its carbon footprint and wastage all while still engaging with audiences globally. Google Meet and Zoom links became the virtual doors to events and exhibitions, and anyone with phones, laptops, and WIFI connection would be able to access them. And while it is false to claim that a virtual art world is a fully accessible one, it was and still is, efficient in engaging with different demographics from all over the world.

However, just to play devil’s advocate, does the act of coming together virtually have the same impact as a physical gathering? Or has the intimacy of being in front of a masterpiece in real-time and real-life become merely a glorified experience? The special ingredient of physical exhibitions was the in-person relationships and the tangible experience of being able to engage with art in person. After living within the 2D screens for so long, let us not be quick to dismiss all that comes with encountering art in a physical space. Be it the bodily and psychological response to an immersive installation, or the excitement and thrill of private views events. However “globally accessible” going virtual might be, there are certain elements that don’t quite live up to an online launch event or art exhibit.

That said, while nothing may truly substitute the experience of walking through a gallery or an art fair, there is another perspective to consider. Perhaps it is not about which (the digital and physical) is better than the other, but the ways in which the two can complement one another. The digital connectivity that spurred within the art world over the last two years has not only made art more approachable and relatable but has bridged the gaps that come with physical locations.

Virtues of a Virtual Artworld

Reflecting on the words ‘virtue’ and ‘virtual’, it seems relevant to contemplate how the virtual art world inspires a virtuous society. When the art world was driven to operate solely on a virtual scale, it fostered a sense of creativity within the community in the way we established our online presence to engage with each other. In utilising the resources and technology available to us, we found diverse and innovative ways to keep the industry alive. While the physical doors to museums and galleries have opened, the new and creative tools, methods, and skills we have discovered allow us to further enrich the art world with alternative experiences. Essentially, there is potential in the myriad of creative innovations that are waiting to be realised in the virtual art world.

Another virtue inspired by the virtual experience is gratitude, in which art appreciation falls under – something that has grown significantly from the exposure that the digital realm has offered the arts. With art organisations engaging with digital strategies to build their online presence, the art world gained a more diverse demographic, thus cultivating greater awareness and appreciation for the arts.

Unity is another virtue that has resulted from the virtual aspect of the art world. In overcoming some of the barriers of location, it has brought art professionals, enthusiasts, and newbies from different walks of life together and has fostered the formation of communities from across the globe. It has promoted a sense of gathering and convening between like-minded individuals without having to be in the physical space. It is curious that the arts have survived amidst the conflict and the wars that our planet continues to soldier through; it has inspired hope, resilience, and defiance. With our rapid technological advances, why shouldn’t these innate values that we recognised in the physical art world, be acknowledged in the virtual one? As you engage with the line-up of artworks in Virtue(al) 3.0, I implore you to reflect on how the terms ‘virtue’ and ‘virtual’ are relevant to your perspective and experience within the arts. For although we have begun visiting physical galleries, art fairs, and studios again, with our rapid digitisation, it is evident that the novelty of virtual experiences has only just begun.

By Elizabeth Low

more exhibitions of ARTO Movement

ARTO Movement

VIRTUE(AL) 3.0

18 May 2022 to 12 Jun 2022

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