Adam W. Brown

VBAM Introductory Lecture


Associate Professor of Electronic Art and Intermedia with the Department of Art, Art History and Design at MSU and Artist in Residence at BEACON the center of evolution in action.


Over the last two decades digital media and embedded computing technology have encroached into our personal, work and recreational spaces. The rapid pace of technological development is exhilarating at best while simultaneously leaving us whirling in a stimulated or maybe even anxious state.


Media art, and by that I mean art that uses new technological imaging processes, video, computer graphics, virtual and augmented reality, networked art, interactive art, biologically inspired art and other hybrid forms not yet realized or mentionedÉ is here, hopefully, to make sense of this tumultuous landscape. As one of artŐs main functions is to help us situate and comprehend our world; to make sure that we see ourselves from all angles.


Under the leadership of Michael Rush, the main mission of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University is to engage in contemporary art of our time. Expressly dedicated to exploring contemporary culture and ideas through the probing gaze of artists, The Broad is a place where artistsŐ ideas, words, and actions create a vibrant center for questioning and understanding the modern world.

Michael understands that one of these new important frontiers to probe, question and engage is within digital worlds and networked realities. This engagement has taken the form of the Virtual Broad Art Museum or VBAM.


VBAM is the result of a collaborative relationship between John Fillwalk, the IDIA Lab Director at Ball State University and myself.  John and I have worked together in various contexts over the past decade, and in the context of the VBAM project, I took on the role of curator while John and his team at Ball State developed the virtual engine for the project that also contains several works of art created by John.


So, what exactly is VBAM? VBAM is a massive multiuser online virtual experimental space that allows people to connect in a shared art experience on a regional, national and international level. Historically, humanity has been interested in illusionary space since our beginnings. As early as 60 BCE in the late Roman Republic, walls were covered with painted frescoes to create illusionary space like the Great Frieze in the Villa dei Misteri at Pompeii in an attempt to bring gods and humans together. The painted room completely fills the observerŐs 360 degree field of vision, breaking down the conceptual and aesthetic barriers between observer and action creating an alternate reality.


Fast forward to the 16th century during the Baroque period, painted ceiling panoramas such as The Nave of SantŐIgnazio by the Jesuit Priest Andrea Pozzo were made possible by the invention of linear perspective by artist, architect and engineer Filippo Brunelleschi. This innovation made for an even more convincing illusionary space.


In the industrial revolution of the 19th century technological progression resulted in more sophisticated imaging techniques brought to us by inventions such as the photograph, stereoscope and motion pictures. All of these tools allowed us to make more realistic illusionary spaces.


And finally onto the 20th century we now experience the power of computerized visualization. I donŐt think it is an overstatement that western culture has been obsessed with the mimicking of reality.


And now VBAMÉ


VBAM strives to go beyond merely accurately representing reality as a purely mimetic exercise. Instead ŇrealityÓ is altered to heighten poetic experience such as in JohnŐs piece Ň SurveyŇ which provides us with a sensoral and visual experience of both space and data. It weaves together a complex system that is an intersection of weather, architecture and kinetics.


Art and Science are once again allied in the service of both creative endeavors and knowledge construction. MSU with the addition of the Broad Museum is an amazing community providing a test bed of interdisciplinary activity.  VBAM will surely be able to further connect our community and the international community in interesting ways. An example of such a possible integration of art and science would be working with BEACON, a new MSU center that studies evolution in action, where I am the artist in residence, to figure out novel uses of computational evolution within a space like VBAM.


John will now present what we have all been waiting for.