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When the Medium IS Art, How Does Art in the Medium Differentiate Itself?

Visual mediums are inherently artistic. Whether it’s a popcorn blockbuster film or a live concert by your favourite band, artistic intention permeates every visual experience.

That’s exceptionally true in virtual reality, where every blade of grass, every speck of dust, has to be carefully rendered by an artist. Like video games and animation, the world of VR is a world of art.

So how, then, do artists distinguish themselves from the masses?

I can strap on a headset and venture into one of the VR worlds created by artist Liz Edwards. She uses Tilt Brush to create truly stunning works of art like this spaceship scene. There’s no denying that what she’s doing is powerful and beautiful — but if I want to spend five minutes in VR, why not go watch Dear Angelica, which also (literally) paints a gorgeous world around me, while also telling a story using words and music?

Edwards works for Ubisoft, bringing her artistic talent to games — another competition in the VR sphere. I could go to a virtual gallery and stare at Starry Night by Van Gogh — or I could enter the painting itself, peering around corners and wandering under starbursts. If someone created an interactive version of that experience, where I could run my fingers through the painting and subtly change it? Or run from monsters under that starry sky? You can bet hands down that would win over a static experience.

Being “just” an artist in VR is even harder than being an artist with non-virtual media, because art is baked into the entire virtual experience. When you create a sculpture, you’re not really competing with other real-world examples. Statues and video games don’t provide the same aesthetic appeal. Classic art and a rock concert give you very different visual stimulation. But strapping on a headset is the medium, and once you’re inside — the competition is fierce.

So how will virtual artists separate themselves from other experiences? Maybe they won’t. Maybe that artistic beauty will be part of every moment in VR.

That would be pretty cool.

Written by Wren Handman for www.hammerandtusk.com.

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