The Re-Mediation of Museums in a Virtual Space

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Museums are cultural time machines, effacing the past and the future and causing the art viewer’s gaze to zoom in on the artwork, and allow it to transport the viewer through time. As O’Doherty writes, “The outside world must not come in” (p.15), disrupting the visitor’s experience with the artwork. The Google Cultural Institute – a virtual space that makes cultural heritage accessible to the world – share the same functions of museums, and can be a hub that allows others to be educated in art history.

The Google Cultural Institute platform is an interface that imitates the museum functions in two ways. First, The design of the user interface is extremely accessible as it divides artworks into art movements. The organization here replaces the art of curation for museum exhibits and galleries. The fact that the interface is published online mimics the the idea of inclusivity and accessibility: rendering artworks and cultural heritage available and accessible to all through the Internet and digital platforms. Similar to O’Doherty’s White Cube, by showcasing the works of artists online, it strips the primordial layer of aestheticism and historicism associated with the artworks when displayed in a museum exhibit. Unlike museums, the Cultural Institute takes away the social aspect of going to the museum and the crowds passing by, offering their own interpretions of the paintings. However, by offering a neutral virtual space, Google’s Art Project allows for the display of  a variety of cultures in a pure form.

Second, the layout of screen “pages” seems to require less work on the viewer subject’s behalf to engage with his environment. In other words, the viewer’s mind works less to perceive the aestheticism offered by museums, galleries, and frames that display the installations. Here, these “pages” function as galleries, cornering the painting in one room alone for viewing and inspection. The art viewing experience becomes more intimate and more detailed – on the singular level of the painting. Connections and relationships cannot be physically made, as seen at the National Art Gallery, by displaying two paintings next to one another for a compare and contrast. Rather, these “pages” allow for an in-depth interaction with a singular painting rather for an in-breadth one.

Perhaps, the Google Cultural Institute is only a continuance of modernism in the sense that “The art is [one step closer to being] free, as the saying used to go, ‘to take on its own life’.” (p.15). This lack of context truly lets the art to speak for itself.