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'Beyond Matter – Cultural Heritage on the Verge of Virtual Reality' aims to develop novel solutions for the accessible documentation and presentation of exhibitions

'Beyond Matter' is an international, interdisciplinary project on the revival of past landmark exhibitions, the documentation of current exhibitions and the dissemination of documentation along with actual artworks – both materially and immaterially present – in innovative ways.
beyond matter
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In general, museums are institutions with long histories. However, this does not mean that they should be regarded as static entities. Rather, as mediators of significant intangible assets such as identity, culture, knowledge and memory, museums are focal components that play an increasingly active role in our contemporary societies where ubiquitous diversity and mobility seem to be the norm. Aalto University’s work in the Beyond Matter project will address the area of audience and community involvement (user studies) in the interpretation and subsequent use of the knowledge created in the exhibitions produced. The primary objective will be, together with the partners’ and their audiences and communities, to develop and realize strategies of engagement that enable and promote the interpretive opportunities afforded by new media utilized.

Beyond Matter seeks to develop novel solutions for the accessible documentation and presentation of exhibitions that currently exist, or previously existed, in physical space – including their artworks, artifacts, and educational materials. In future, these methods of virtualizing exhibitions might be used by museums and galleries to document and revive their exhibitions in new ways.

The reconstruction of historical environments and the representation of interiors are both important and rapidly developing fields of VR technology. State-of-the-art technologies do offer sufficient solutions, but they are not used, or only partially used, specifically for disseminating, mediating, documenting, and reconstructing art exhibitions. The research-based methodology will provide a basis for developing museological and technological aspects simultaneously.

Exhibition spaces are physical locations of knowledge production and exchange, where spatial qualities play an important role in the contextualization of information. Virtual productions and reproductions should therefore maintain these qualities, but also be able to include digitized and born-digital content, whether artworks, exhibits, or informational materials. This is equally relevant to the reconstruction of no longer existing spaces. Stable asset management databases – including born-digital and digitized materials – are crucial, while more intuitive usage of VR spaces via various interfaces and interaction options will also be investigated throughout the project.

To ensure that the methods developed remain in use in the longer term, the project aims to contribute to the capacity building of museum professionals through seminars and conferences. The results will be collected in the Virtual Museum Toolkit, encompassing practical and theoretical knowledge on the inclusion of virtual exhibitions in displaying and mediating artworks.

Partner museums and galleries will also host large and small-scale exhibitions to measure and further practice-based innovation, as well as events to disseminate the project’s results. In a framework of artist-in-residency programs, artists will be invited to develop new pieces for these exhibitions, ensuring that the project resonates with the latest contemporary tendencies.

An MA Fellowships programme is organised along with the project, bringing together Masters students from Aalto University with important European museums and heritage institutions such as the ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany, the Centre George Pompidou in Paris, France, Tallinn Art Hall, Estonia, Tirana Art Lab, Albania and the Ludwig Museum in Budapest, Hungary. The fellowships programme will be carried out in collaboration with the Systems of Representation research group that will tutor nine Masters students attending in the program. 

The project enjoys the partnership of organizations from a wide range of European countries – from almost all regions of the continent—and foresees the cooperation of various other organizations with a broad spectrum of experience, in fields such as digital art conservation, digitizing tangible and intangible heritage, exhibitions of contemporary and new media art, and experimental museology. The Beyond Matter project team consists of Lily DiazCvijeta Miljak and Hanna Karkku from Aalto University School of Art, Design and Architecture.

The project is initiated and led by ZKM Karlsruhe and co-founded by the Creative Europe Program of the European Union.

Links to the project:

https://beyond-heritage.aalto.fi/

https://beyond-heritage.aalto.fi/methodology/

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