[ISEA2020] Paper: Vince Dziekan — Expanded Notes on the Exhibitionary Conditions of Virtual Reality


Keywords: Virtual Reality, Curatorial Design, Curatorial Research, Museum Studies, Exhibition Studies

By acknowledging that virtual reality is experienced in real space, this curatorial research posits that the ways in which mediated curatorial and museological contexts describes a distinctive set of exhibitionary conditions. As will be developed here, VR and museums, in their own respective ways, function as multi-dimensional spaces in which aesthetic experiences are situated. By critically reflecting upon field research involving notable VR artworks – including my first-hand exhibition encounter with filmmaker Alejandro Iñárritu’s celebrated Carne y Arena (2017) being focused upon here – I will argue that critical examination of immersive experience should not be based on an interpretation of the visual and affective qualities of the simulated, virtual image alone; but instead be responded to more expansively by contextualizing its viewing experience as part of a broader, unfolding exhibition encounter that the work’s gallery-based installation supports. These supplementary notes extend the line of inquiry initiated in my previous theorization of Carne y Arena by drawing Edward Kienholz’s environmental tableaux Five Card Stud (1969-72) into this constellation of concerns. In doing so, this text will extrapolate how the horizon of VR extends well beyond the cinematic to the cinematographic, and onto the curatorial design of exhibition space itself.


  • Vince Dziekan is a Senior Academic and Practitioner-Researcher at Monash Art Design & Architecture (MADA), Monash University, Australia, whose work engages with the transformation of contemporary curatorial practices at the intersection of design, creative technology and museum culture. The scope of this interdisciplinary investigation has been outlined previously in his book, ‘Virtuality and the Art of Exhibition: Curatorial Design for the Multimedial Museum’ (Intellect/University of Chicago Press, 2012). He has published widely in traditional, scholarly as well as non-traditional modes through his independent curatorial practice. He is associate editor of Curator: The Museum Journal (Wiley) and curator of MWX, the exhibition initiative of Museums and the Web (United States). Together with Kirsten Drotner, Ross Parry and Kim Schroder, he was responsible for developing and co-editting ‘The Routledge Handbook of Museums, Media and Communication’ for Routledge (2019), and was recently international advisor on ‘One by One: Building the digital literacies of UK museums’ – a major, national Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded research project, to develop a digital literacy framework for the United Kingdom museum sector.