Why Art in Virtual Worlds?

Exploration of new forms has been a modus operandi of the avant garde for over a century, and New Media is doubly implicated in this gesture of praxis. New Media implicitly signifies novelty by virtue of its name alone, but also through its definition that includes emergent (but primarily digital) artforms. As a subset of this, one could recurse by saying that art in virtual worlds could be a “New” New Media. Before devolving into satirical discussions of comparative novelty, it’s notable that “new” media are a locus of expansion of art praxis for centuries, including oil, print, and photography. However, is novelty sufficient cause to merit the consideration of virtual art? Beyond the maxim of “Art for Art’s Sake”, virtual world art is part of a historical arc of work that engages social relations.

~ Patrick Lichty – Artist, Curator, and Theorist


Author: Dorothy R. Santos

Dorothy R. Santos (b. 1978) is a Filipina-American writer, editor, curator, and educator whose research interests include new media and digital art, activism, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco, and received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts. She serves as one of the editors-in-chief for Hyphen magazine. Her work appears in art21, Art Practical, Daily Serving, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, and SF MOMA's Open Space. She has lectured at the De Young museum, Stanford University, School of Visual Arts, and more. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” was published in The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture (2016). She is currently a Yerba Buena Center for the Arts fellow researching the concept of citizenship. She also serves as executive staff for the Bay Area Society for Art & Activism and board member for the SOMArts Cultural Center.

2 thoughts on “Why Art in Virtual Worlds?”

  1. Exploration through dauntless experimentation can only enhance the immune system. This is my personal theoretic approach to health/creativity. A self inflicted Rx to go wild.

    Yes, I embrace the term Poetry. But poetry, perhaps, can be a subjective process congregating words developing within. These words can then be recognized as a singular manipulated literary tradition that, just like New Media, is always in flux. Aaah, flux, that squirmy landlocked fallout.

    I’d like to respond to “…virtual world art is part of a historical arc of work that engages social relations.” In participating in A Post a Day 2011 through WordPress as a performance of New Media, I enjoy the anonymity, the darkness in writing daily. Oddly, it seems private. In taking out the physical audience, a vulnerability rises yet also succumbs to the chasm. This way given ends up leaving good space for an empty echo to repeat and return. Gone is the agent, the payment, a large percentage of hype and press, even the ‘book tour’ of possibilities. I resign myself to a currency as new as the medium, concurrent to the flux aforementioned.

    Viva La New.

    1. You know what’s funny…in the physical world, its difficult enough to get people to care, which is why I agree with your statement about experiencing this darkness or anonymity (even though a blog is a public forum). I’ve taken writing and/or posting on a daily basis as an exercise rather than garnering attention because, the people that really want to engage and correspond will do so and from those exchanges, you get the most meaningful feedback and thoughtful dialogues.

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