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Participant-led Engagement in Galleries and Museums through Immersive Technologies


My thoughts on Participant-led Engagement in Galleries and Museums through Immersive Technologies

In late January 2021, I had the pleasure of presenting at the Arts and Cultural Management Conference 2021 (ACMC) on three years of exploration with the use of immersive technologies (VR/AR) in engaging audiences and community groups in exhibitions and collections. Through experimentation and adapting complimentary digital technologies, I believe that immersive technologies will play a vital role in engaging “hard-to-reach” audiences, as well as hand the power of re-imagining works to participants, while maintaining borders around artistic integrity.  

Digital spaces have become a go to medium to exhibit work, where physical space is limited or even reserved for “highbrow” artists and collections. Initially working with VR to provide communities and participants a place to exhibit work, I became interested in the possibilities for these groups to re-imagine exhibitions and works, encouraging creative responses.  

Participants are able to scan works and exhibitions to re-imagine them in digital space, as well as bring digital objects into the physical space. Physically displayed works can also be reinterpreted without compromising the exhibition or physical piece. Think “Guerrilla Art” in gallery spaces: digital 3D graffiti that is only visible through a digital lens.  

Digital technologies like VR and AR, especially through intuitive tools like Tiltbrush, are highly accessible through using movement and gesture to create outcomes, rather than learning complex skills like coding etc. The mobility of equipment also means we are able to encourage action by taking collections and arts practice to participant groups. 

I believe that immersive technologies used in this way are vital for crossing boarders with community engagement and representation in the arts and culture sector. Increasing digital knowledge throughout the sector also brings new ways of working and levels skills gaps between arts practitioners and participants. It also enables a new layer of response by audiences. One that both compliments and interrogates arts practice.

A big thanks to V21 Artspace for their ongoing support.  

John Whall, QUAD Digital Participation Curator