"featuring:_" is the graduation exhibition created by students on the bachelor’s degree program in Art and Multimedia. For two whole semesters, the students took part in seminars and workshops to prepare and design 24 projects for their final exhibition. What's more, every project was realized in a unique way, resulting in installations, VR experiences, and gaming projects that invite visitors to become directly involved. The exhibition has now opened its doors online.
Viewed through a VR headset, the virtual exhibition space resembles a floating crystal. Every face of the object takes viewers to a different project. Moreover, the exhibition is presented as a map, where the individual projects and installations are displayed. This allows visitors to click through the different rooms, admire certain objects, or filter directly according to specific attributes, choosing from VR, gaming, and video installations. Clicking one of the virtual exhibition rooms takes the visitor directly to an installation, starts a video player, or presents intricate photomontages, an invitation to a leisurely browse.
The seminar was initially geared to a real, walk-through exhibition. When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the students had to change their plans. As the director of the graduation seminar, Dr. Karin Guminski recalls, it was difficult to adjust at first. "My colleague, Bashira Cabbara and I, discussed what form of online presentation stood a chance of being implemented successfully in such a short time. Needless to say, a real exhibition has a much wider scope, particularly when it comes to making room installations and interactive art projects accessible as a physical experience. We normally make a point of enabling visitors to trace the creative processes of the individual projects by putting the relevant materials, such as sketchbooks, on display."
It soon became clear that this would not be an option here. New plans were therefore drawn up in an incredibly short time span and the projects adapted for a virtual exhibition. "This meant plenty of work and certainly left us on tenterhooks. At the same time, however, the students learned a great deal," Guminski says. The potential for international visibility was a powerful incentive for many of them. "Of course, a virtual exhibition allows you to reach a much wider audience and enter into dialogue with artists and art lovers all over the world." That came about straight away in October, when the organizers of Medientage München heard about the project and included it in their program for October 2020.
Installations, VR, and coding
The projects are as unique as the students themselves. Along with sound-based project installations and VR experiments, the exhibition is also a treasure trove of installations, for example. A case in point: one of the students wrote a cookery book that follows a well-known video game format, Stardew Valley, to encourage players to focus more on cooking.
Another student developed a project that is more topical than ever in view of the current pandemic. "Sonder" aims to show that we all have a distinct, personal story, even if it is often lost in the crowd, unnoticed by our individual focus. The idea was that the project would benefit greatly from being part of a physical exhibition. But it also goes under the skin online: in short anecdotes, anonymous narrators talk about experiences and stories that influenced them. Some are uplifting, others heartbreaking. Nonetheless, the intent is crystal clear: each and every one of us is fighting our own battles.
The new exhibition form was not just an impromptu substitute; in fact, there are plans to work with hybrid exhibition forms in future seminars. "One option would be for a physical exhibition to always include a virtual space, in which the projects are combined or arranged in new contexts," Guminski says. Ultimately, diversity is what counts and she is constantly amazed by the results. "It is fantastic to see what ideas the students come up with and to follow their artistic development during their studies."