the Virtual Curator for the Virtual Artist

Posted by Rhizome | Tue May 6th 1997 1 a.m.

The Virtual Curator (Beardon & Worden) is an authoring environment,
currently under development, which enables the user to work within the
metaphor of the museum.

The Virtual Curator software has been the product of a collaborative
research project in the Rediffusion Simulation Research Centre at the
University of Brighton. The user has access to a museum store of objects
that are unclassified. They are able to classify the objects and sort
them into groups. The user is expected to put on an exhibition using the
objects from the store. Other objects, texts, diagrams can be added to
the store and then used in the exhibition. Once an exhibition has been
constructed it can be saved and placed in the store as an object, which
can in turn be re-used. The exhibition space can be a two dimensional
poster or a two-and-a-half dimensional collage, where two dimensional
objects are placed in a three dimensional space.

The software enables the user to make statements about historical and
cultural objects. It focuses on the process of history making and offers
the user an active role. In a practical way the software extends the
links between historical understanding and contemporary social theory.
Authorship is signalled as a process to be learnt and negotiated. Only
be making it clear where one is reporting/researching from is it
possible to suggest a way of reading the representations. Using the
metaphor of the museum in this context means that the institution of the
museum is seen as a site where authenticity, ownership, classification
and contextualisation are treated as problematic, ambiguous and
paradoxical. These issues are current in debates on the nature of
museums. There is no primary and secondary classification of objects.
This is a point of departure from existing virtual museums where the
objects of display are described as primary and 'contextual' material as
secondary. Through the Virtual Curator the museum as an institution is
questioned by giving more power to the user. The author's power is
within the processes of manipulation and transformation. The Virtual
Curator is a world within which to act which does not close the
relationship between the virtual and the real but recognises this as a
creative activity to be constantly negotiated

Virtual Curator Store with picture of 'object' and information about
that object. At the time of writing the software is currently being
developed in MPW C, as previous versions in HyperCard=81 And
SuperCard=81 were not robust enough for general use. The aim of the
project is to extend the range of media at our disposal and develop
their richness. Visual language then becomes more than illustration. On
a theoretical level this has meant rejecting photorealism which implies
control and closure and, instead, finding other means of making
statements. Collage/montage offers a way of ordering and communicating
where the illusion is qualified and the constructed nature of the image
is recognised.
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