We need to talk about the display of works in art and technology. The presentation unconditionally impacts viewer engagement, understanding, and valuation of the artwork, and yet often audiences and reviewers don’t address that feature. Similar to other forms of contemporary art, space and context is key. Display choices for sculpture, painting, photography, or even video, exist. Of course video and film are still seen to struggle, as when the 36-minute narrative film, DOKU – The Self by LuYang was presented at the Venice Biennale 2022 amongst a wide range of sculptural pieces and paintings in a corner of the room without the full sound.
The presentation of digital art, when done well, can create unique opportunities for engagement, depth of understanding, and interaction that allow the works to present the ideas and issues that artists want audiences to consider about the world today. VR artworks and games as artworks require a presentation that allows for the requisite engagement but also must consider instructions for first time audiences that are not boring, alienating, or dismissive. Too often people are expected to just use a device as if that weren’t for some people new and dizzying—even scary. Games in Nxt Museum are easily picked up and played by Gen Z, but a large group of visitors need the support. As the Director, recognizing the diversity of audiences with their assorted comfort levels, distinct understanding of how to engage and willingness to do so, is crucial. Display choices can optimize accessibility. Curators invited to work must show respect for all audiences, which means we all submit to the risk in novel display and presentation practices. From that, we learn.
Lastly, physical display, installation, and support are not all that matters, because the online presentation of the work engages (or not) audiences before they arrive. At the start of the NFT boom many online spaces were focused on sales and less on storytelling, hence the vast number of low-res files with a key focus on price and urgent timelines (ie. five minutes till sale ends, etc.). In these online spaces, I often felt that artists’ ideas and the rigour of their work were lost. This has been improving. The display of digital works in online environments became a recognizable aspect of good curation with an extensive conversation around frames that occurred—but that’s just the beginning of display concerns. There’s plenty more work to be done in this space to enhance understanding and optimise aesthetics as more audiences turn to look at digital art in its varied forms.