Will technology change the way we experience art? As part of the fifth edition of The New Storytellers, we sat down with Phoebe Greenberg to get her thoughts on the matter. You can listen to the whole interview below.
The relationship between art and technology goes way back. From the camera obscura to mass production, new innovations have had a profound impact on art.
“As we develop new technologies, the way we experience art might shift, but fundamental ideas remain the same. It’s the work that matters,” Greenberg says.
The Phi founder is deeply committed to providing access to innovative technology. “It’s as important as giving access to new ideas.” Today, technologies like AR and VR are the modern palettes. “They allow artists to express themselves. The headsets are simply really immersive canvases.”
Before the age of mechanical reproduction, you had to travel to a gallery to see an artwork. In regards to VR, this is still the case. The best experiences are site-specific. “Some of the best VR experiences are extremely costly, so it's not something that can be reproduced in mass at this point in time.” In one way, you could say that VR has brought back Walter Benjamin’s notion of the aura to the artwork. “VR can be a liberation from the mind-numbing sameness of your feed. Going to a location to experience an artwork demands commitment and active participation.” Greenberg believes these are ideal conditions for experiencing art, “along with a willingness to be open.”
“With today’s technology, we have the opportunity of being transported from one place to another. Or from one mind to another.” Indeed, putting on a headset and experiencing somebody's artistic vision is the closest we’ve come to seeing the world from another perspective than our own. “It can facilitate empathy,” Greenberg adds.
It’s an interesting paradox. Donning a headset seems like an extremely individual experience, but more and more artists are thinking about that dilemma and creating works that offer collective experiences, whether through the use of an avatar or a shared experience like a VR cinema. “It’s a balance between sharing a moment and being totally immersed in a closed-off environment.” In this way, the format seems to perfectly reflect today’s society: alone, together.
The immersive sensory experience of VR is a radical departure from traditional means of expression. “It offers new possibilities for new artistic experiences. It has the potential to incorporate touch and smell. Paired with the visuals you're seeing in your headset, this can seriously blur the line between the physical and virtual worlds.”
When asked if she foresees any problems in this blurring of realities, Greenberg offers a refreshing perspective. “All great art alters our perception of reality. Besides, I'm not sure what the real world is."
Interview by Anne Bertrand
Text by Kristian Kahn
Photos: Richard Bernardin