VISUAL MESSAGES - 3D virtual exhibition by IVLA Expo


Fri, 09/25/2020 to Thu, 12/31/2020

curated by:

VISUAL MESSAGES is the first juried virtual exhibition presented by the International Visual Literacy Association (IVLA). It is presented in conjunction with IVLA Annual Conference, Visual Literacy in the Virtual Realm, held online on September 25 and 26th, 2020.

The exhibition was juried by Peter Capreau, senior curator, M Leuven (Belgium); Petronio Bendito, associate professor, designer, artist, and curator, Purdue University (USA); and Dana Statton Thompson, vice-president of IVLA, research and instruction librarian, assistant professor, Murray State University (USA).


Peter Capreau
Petronio Bendito
Dana Statton Thompson

This exhibition is conceived within the concept of the International Visual Literacy 52 annual conference theme, Visual Literacy in the Virtual Realm, held online on September 25 and 26th, 2020. It raises questions about visual literacy associated with the volatile visual world of the internet and the implications of 3D online exhibitions. The works in this exhibition are either original digital data or digital photographic representations of physical objects. However, in their essence, the exhibition's works are red, green, and blue microscopic lights flashing on the screen, a constant motion, fighting for the viewers' attention and inevitability vulnerable to the viewers' perceptions and meaning-making.

Collectively, the exhibition offers an opportunity for the viewer to reflect on the notion of the exhibition as a whole and to examine the non-visual aspects of the works, the framework of delivery, and the interdependence between works, viewer, virtual of representation and real realms, and the experiences that they afford.

While this virtual exhibition does not aim to provide answers, its delivery method, by definition, probes some serious questions. Perhaps, we could start by revisiting what, already in 1862, the French art critic William Thoré-Burger noticed, in the introduction of his publication on the Antwerp Museum, about the importance of photography for the knowledge of art. Burger advocated using photography to establish 'une gallerie universelle des Chef-d'oeuvres de la peinture'. This proved to be visionary. It was a prefiguration of the ideas of two of the most important thinkers on art of the twentieth century: Walter Benjamin and André Malraux.

Fast-forward to 1935, in his groundbreaking essay, 'Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit' (The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction), Walter Benjamin clearly shows that a reproduction of an artwork is not “innocent.” The mass-media reproductions have a profound influence on the conception of the artwork; to reproduce it (by mass-media) almost always means adding extra meaning, or manipulating the meaning.

Although Benjamin referred to movies, his views are still relevant to our digital age, especially related to the immersive and socially distributed nature of online virtual realities–a world in motion. In this exhibition, the viewer is also the experiencer, in which the works, real and virtual spaces are inherently one.

André Malraux takes a step further in his 1947 essay 'Le musée imaginaire' (frequently translated as The Museum Without Walls). Where Benjamin still hails the idea of the original artwork, Malraux sees an evolution from the object to pure image. A gallery or museum deprives the artworks of their initial and original function, 'a transformation' as he calls it. An 'original' is not defined by its material aspects–or in the context of this exhibition, digital data–but by its perceived functionality. An object in a specific context serving a particular goal or function gets transformed by the act of the removal of its function by placing it in the museum to 'pure image'. In the 21st Century, the implications of this view are magnified by the fact that the real-space in which the virtual space of the online 3D exhibition is experienced are dramatically personal (e.g., an office, a living room) or public (e.g., a park).

For Malraux, transformation through context gives man almost divine power: by curating these pure images, man can recreate the world: 'Une recreation de l'univers en face de la Creation'. The link with today is obvious. The fact that the works in the exhibition are all presented digitally in a 3D virtual exhibition space alters fundamentally the way we perceive them. They offer new readings and inevitably new messages.

Even a superficial reading of Malraux makes the parallel with the internet visible. Yet the important part is the recreation of reality by using pure images. This is what the internet made possible for everyone, yet one must learn how to wield that creative power of transposition and distributed multi-realities. This is one of the significant challenges of visual literacy in virtual environments, and this exhibition asks the viewer to ponder and examine this and related questions further.



1st Place
Stairs 3, 2020 / MILA GVARDIOL

2nd Place
Barragan and Teotihuacan, 2020 /

3rd Place
Smoker's Prayer, 2020 / QIANGWEI XU


Raikas on Migration, 2019 / SUNDEEP BALI
White (15.50%), 2020 / AVITAL MESHI
Tokyo 2020+0 , 2020 / GARY MCLEOD
Neuron and Universe, 2020 / XUN (MICHAEL) CHI


This exhibition committee was formed to strengthen visual literacy in the virtual realm and to respond to the need to promote the arts during the COVID-19 pandemic. The jurors reviewed over a hundred submissions. The exhibition can be viewed online at and features thirty artworks by twenty-two international artists. Artist statements accompany the artworks in the virtual gallery. The jurors' virtual tour and awards announcements took place during the International Visual Literacy Association's annual conference.

IVLA 2020 Exhibition Committee

Petronio Bendito, co-chair
Karen Tardrew, co-chair
Peter Carpreau
Geri Chesner
Dana Thompson
Michelle Wendt

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