Through the Virtual Looking Glass


In April 2010,  the Virtual Art Initiative and the Caerleon Sims in Second Life and OpenSim hosted an exhibition of the art of virtual worlds in the real world Harbor Gallery of the University of Massachusetts at Boston. The Boston exhibition was part of an unprecedented international collaboration that exhibited the work of artists from more than twenty nations in real world galleries in six countries: France, Holland, Germany, Brazil, Australia, and the USA.

Virtual Worlds are computer generated, immersive, three-dimensional environments that allow people from around the globe to interact with one another through “avatars” (digital bodies) and to shape their environments, both individually and collectively, by using graphical and programming tools.

In process of development since the 1980s, virtual worlds now have more than 12 million participants, and include such venues as Second Life, OpenSim, VastPark, Blue Mars, and World of Warcraft. Virtual worlds are like photography, cinema, video, and electronic music were in their early years in that they provide the opportunity, in the form of a new technology, for radically innovative forms of aesthetic expression.

A “mixed reality” exhibition brings virtual art into real world spaces where it becomes accessible to wide audiences, as well as bringing real world works and events into virtual worlds.

The Harbor Gallery exhibition attempted to bridge the gap between the real and virtual worlds through a variety of innovative methods, including digital projection of artworks from the virtual worlds Second Life and OpenSim with interfaces permitting real world audience interaction; images and machinimas (virtual world videos) shown on computer
screens and in digital frames; prints of virtual artworks; physical sculptures and paintings inspired by virtual art,
some with embedded electronic components; and musical performances occurring in the real world gallery space, streamed live into Second Life where they were translated into avatar performances, and recaptured in the physical gallery space.

In the three weeks that it was open, Through the Virtual Looking Glass attracted a few hundred vistors to the real world gallery space in Boston as well as over 6000 visitors to its installations in Second Life. The exhibition was promoted by Linden Labs (the owners of Second Life) in an email to all of its users as well as in its art and general event Showcases, was reported by Open Media Boston, and was covered by the artist,  journalist, and virtual art theorist Nettrice Gaskins in six articles in the official Public Broadcasting System, Art 21 Blog.

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A Mixed Reality Exhibition of the
Art of Virtual Worlds

Harbor Gallery

UMass Boston

April 7 to April 30, 2010

Opening April 7

3PM to 8Pm

Closing April 30

11AM to 3PM

One of six exhibitions held in six countries: France, Holland, Germany, Brazil, Australia, and the USA

Curated by Gary Zabel, Ph.D.

Video by Nettrice Gaskins for PBS,

Art 21