The creative outcomes of my PhD practice-based research are presented in a final exhibition. Initially, a physical exhibition was planned that would provide the viewer with a complete phenomenological experience associated with each VR artwork and accompanying archival materials and physical exhibition artefacts.
However, while commencing these final preparations, the COVID-19 pandemic exploded. As a consequence, it became clear that it would not be possible to realise a physical exhibition as I had envisaged. Thus I have opted to respond by designing and presenting the works through an online exhibition platform instead.
The virtual exhibition intends to provide immersive documentation of each VR project. In the resulting web-based 3D environment, a virtual gallery space is divided into four sections. Upon entering the virtual gallery, the viewer finds themselves in a room that provides an introductory explanation about the exhibition and the three artworks contained therein. Each VR artwork is installed along with representative images, digital objects and textual descriptions related to the individual project.
The online exhibition platform imposed some unanticipated limitations upon how I might provide a more phenomenological experience of the artworks. Using poetic devices alongside contextual information for each project responds to what I have learnt from my observations of how viewers engage with the works on previous occasions.
By navigating the online exhibition, the viewer can explore informative or poetic artefacts, images, and texts associated with each project. It provides a substantive context and a sense of active exploration. In short, the phenomenological aspect of the gallery-based exhibition is still considered a design strategy for the online exhibition, albeit in a more limited form.
However, it is not possible to provide viewers with the full VR experience of wearing head-mounted displays (HMDs) as part of the exhibition. Instead, VR films are viewable in a web browser as rendered 360 videos and a 2D playthrough video.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted significantly upon my plans for the final exhibition. Facing this unexpected situation has encouraged me to reflect more directly on the role of the exhibition and the possibilities of presentation in a socially isolated environment.