Abstracts Sasha Scott and Jeni Maleshkova 3rd July 2014

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Sasha Scott

Images of a Digital Martyr: Neda Agha-Soltan and the Ritual Performance of Mourning

The visual economy of the digital age has given rise to new rituals of consumption and production as we capture, share and narrate our lives. Our technologies are becoming wearable extensions of the self, and our use of them embedded in the domestic and everyday as we renegotiate notions of private and public, the mundane and the extraordinary. This study looks at the digitised rituals of death, mourning and remembrance around the murder of Neda Agha-Soltan during the Iranian protests of 2009, arguing that the unique visual affordances of mobile technologies and social media (namely capture, connection and sharing) allowed differing and often conflictual regional voices to re-appropriate, objectify and commodify her image according to local norms, emotional energy and ideological agendas in the emotional regimes that produce structures of meaning in the digital space. Ritual is a fundamental human response pattern in times of trauma and distress, and concerns vital questions of identity politics, the circulation of affect and the construction of intersubjectivity in a mediated world. Mediatized ritual is shown to be situational, spatial, and increasingly ephemeral, whilst the lack of co-presence is compensated for by an increased visuality and emotional engagement in the sacred symbols and objects that ritual produces. These objects are integral to the constitution and maintenance of affective energy, which is essential to the success of ritual interaction.

Jeni Maleshkova

Beyond the White Cube: Presentation of Visual Art in Interactive 3D Environments

New Media has not only revolutionized the way art is made but also how it is presented and curated. In this context, Virtual Reality offers exciting new possibilities, which can be encapsulated as 3D interactive features for the Web. Following this framework, we present two examples which showcase how advanced technical tools can be applied for the presentation of visual art. Both projects contribute towards escaping from the common exhibition space, giving the user the option to explore paintings not only interactively but also in a unique surrounding, difficult to simulate in the real world. First, we propose a Virtual Reality pavilion, whose design purpose is to contribute to the perception of the displayed paintings. Second, we provide a free-viewpoint video implementation for the Web, creating a common place where portraits and real actors perform together in a virtual environment as players in a storytelling presentation, and where the user can interactively explore the artworks and connections between them. For the second project, two user studies have been performed. The first study compares our virtual environment approach with that of a conventional 3D art gallery. The second user study took place at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. There the project was presented as an interactive installation with which visitors were able to explore the paintings.

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