But Is It Stolen Art?

The Stolen Art Gallery

(I’m still really struggling to get my head back into the writing-game at the moment, but here’s another throw of the dice.)

The Stolen Art Gallery will be out in roughly a day so I thought I should attempt to write a little more about it here so that there are some of my own words on the matter on the internet. Here I thought I would mostly address the general ideas of find interesting about it as a project.

So, I made The Stolen Art Gallery as a direct reaction to hearing about (and seeing the promotional video for) The Museum of Stolen Art by Ziv Schneider. Schneider’s project is quite interesting – it’s a virtual space in which you can go and see artworks that have been stolen as images rendered into a 3D museum. The stated purpose is to make these works accessible and even to assist in the locating of these works by raising awareness. It’s quite a noble idea and I’m supportive of it. But my other reaction was, perhaps unsurprisingly, a desire to subvert or almost “correct” the idea of displaying stolen art. So I wanted to make a version in which you can go to a virtual space that presents stolen art, but the art isn’t there – because it’s been stolen. Hence The Stolen Art Gallery (a smaller and more manageable space).

The main thing I like about this is that The Stolen Art Gallery exists as this “accessible” place to see this stolen art and, like the Museum of Stolen Art, could “show you” the images of the stolen art, but then declines to do so. I think that’s amusing, of course, but I think it’s also fun and interesting to think about this whole idea of the internet’s purpose being to make every accessible and, in particular, the idea that if I show you a JPEG of a stolen artwork I’m somehow showing you the artwork itself or even a remote “version” of it. So in a way I end up feeling like The Stolen Art Gallery has an honesty to it – what these stolen artworks look like, for us, is “nothing” – because we can’t see them, and their absence is something that speaks more powerfully, in some ways, than an image of them could.

Along with that sort of philosophical bent on technology and access, I was of course very interesting in creating a manageable 3D space in Unity, which isn’t something I’ve ever done before. In particular I like the idea of creating 3D spaces that don’t have a kind of entertainment-utility beyond the actual space (and contents). That is, it’s not what you “do” in The Stolen Art Gallery that’s meant to be interesting (beyond perceiving the space) – it’s not that you rocket-jump through the windows or trigger a question in front of a plinth, etc. So there’s also this idea of returning 3D space to being just that: a space that you can be in and that’s that.

So that’s a few words on The Stolen Art Gallery from its fatigued architect anyway. Night.

12 May 2015
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