As the flow of history reshaped the world, this was reflected in the status and nature of museums. Museums are “a way to organize time and space…as times and spaces change, so do museum spaces.” (Steyerl, Duty Free Art) The challenges faced by museums, historically, are not necessarily relevant to contemporary discussions of the same. Just as the challenges faced by museums a century ago were wildly divergent from their forebears. It is a delicate and unending dance, finding a proper place where change is the only constant.
Contemporary art and modern museums have long been freed of traditional physical restraints. This has led to fundamental changes in the way museums are perceived and conceived, and raise fundamental questions about the path forward for any new museum. To trace this arc very briefly, museums in the Western world originated as private royal collections that served as displays of imperial might. As monarchs fell and nation-states emerged, these national collections were “liberated” (though they still served as symbols of wealth and colonial power), and made (somewhat) accessible to audiences.
Boris Groys describes art as attempts to document the “flow” of existence — an artists’ immersion in that flow cannot be directly conveyed; it is, at best, a transliteration. The documentation of these experiences are what constitutes much of what is vital to great art. Accordingly, the museum ought to serve as “an archive of self-fluidizations.” The archival role, however, is not a passive one. The curatorial role is increasingly vital in an artistic environment that is so impossibly fast-paced and so untethered to orthodoxy.
Museums historically attempted to capture artistic and historical moments via permanent collections. With the incredible leaps in technology and medium in the NFT space, a permanent collection, while still vitally important to the museum’s identity, cannot be all that a museum offers.
Two examples of the changing nature of museums and exhibition spaces, and the rapid changes therein are shown by two recent M○C△ projects across multiple spaces and platforms.
M○C△’s collaborative exhibition with irlart (titled U’R,L) features digital works in a physical space with corresponding works overlaid in AR within the space. As a viewer walks through the physical exhibition and inspects a given piece, they are then able to use their phones to view the artist’s AR overlay piece in the same space. The physical gallery is enhanced in AR, allowing the artist an additional medium and a connection between the physical space and the digital.
In a similar vein, M○C△ has launched a global AR project (thanks to artist Fabin Rasheed, who executed the AR project with his own code) in which pieces from M○C△’s Genesis Collection are geolocated at prominent and relevant locations across six continents. These works are visible in AR at the given coordinates that relate in some way to the art, from grottoes in Luoyang to Versailles to the Video Game Capital of the World Museum in Ottumwa, Iowa.
As physical and digital spaces become increasingly intertwined, the degree to which art and artists will be able to interact with these combined spaces offers an unprecedented opportunity. The artist, able to layer digital atop the physical, to blend and separate them as they see fit, is presented a novel set of tools with which to commentate on our current technologically immersed existence. The ability to utilize AR and the versatility and portability that this offers artists, curators, and digital museums, offers a new way forward in installation art, and another compelling avenue for crypto artists to explore.
The steady advance of augmented reality technologies, the growth of virtual reality platforms, and the amalgamation of physical spaces with these technologies will determine the utility and exhibition of NFT art and the future of M○C△. M○C△ seeks its place at the head of the pack, aiding and supporting artists, artistic growth, digital art spaces, digital art communities, and discovering and realizing a holistic and sustainable path forward for the premier museum in the NFT space.
M○C△, therefore, understands its dual purposes. It is of vital importance that M○C△ provides a snapshot of such an ephemeral and novel scene, for posterity and to provide artists, collectors, and viewers alike with the resources necessary to create their own artistic foundations. M○C△ will lead in creating novel modes of curation and exhibition, while constructing narratives and establishing broader thematic relevance.
It is, still, a museum — it is multifunctional in ways that are unique to the space. M○C△ as an incubator, an artist support network, a digital exhibition space, a permanent collection, a tool for community curation, and so forth. To lack adaptability in this space is to invite almost immediate obsolescence. As such, M○C△ will use an array of approaches to cast a wide net, nurturing diverse enthusiasms, and enabling and empowering differing approaches to the NFT space.
The museum as it has been defined (and as is thought of broadly) is not dead, but it is certainly diminished. This has only been amplified and accelerated by Covid and other antagonistic financial trends in the art world. NFT art opens up the concept of the museum in a way that is perhaps necessary to ensure its survival; where traditional museums have failed to enable, empower, and enrich artists, M○C△ will seek, at every turn, to reverse that. If a “Museum of Crypto Art” fails to do so, it does not live up to its name and will meet a quiet end. M○C△ will follow the other path.
U`R,L opens at the IRL Art Gallery in Denver on September 3rd and runs through September 24th.
M○C△*R is a permanent installation series accessible via AR in 30 global locations (pieces and locations are listed on the flier below).