Metaverse has recently become a hugely popular buzzword used to describe a range of projects and products ranging from detailed virtual reality worlds, to extensive collections of NFTs and other digital artwork linked together in their own universe. It’s tempting to see this as yet another buzzword used by PR officers to make a product sound “techy” and modern, however it also has the potential to dramatically change the ways both digital artists, and all of us use an interact with each other and the Internet. The potential here is so substantial that Facebook has changed it’s company name to Meta and launched a VR platform in the hopes of becoming synonymous with the concept.
A true Metaverse involves a digital world, often which is accessed through a web browser or a VR headset; an early forerunner was Second Life and little has changed; you create an avatar which can walk around and interact in this 3D, VR, game-like world. Options are available to buy different clothes for your avatar, or to buy and build on plots of digital land; this can be purely for the sake of doing it, or it can be to establish an event venue or some kind of store selling digital or real world products.
Plenty of big brands are diving in to check things out; Samsung, Adidas, Miller Lite and even Sotheby’s have all established stores in the well known Decentraland Metaverse, which has been around since 2017. Gaining prominence in the recent cryptocurrency boom due to being intrinsically woven together with blockchain and cryptocurrency, it is an early leader in the field and one which Facebook will be seeking to put Meta ahead of over time, and there are many, many more platforms coming into the market or planned for launch in the near future.
So where do digital artists fit into the Metaverse?
In a way, everywhere; a Metaverse itself could be seen as a form of digital art, and most of the Metaverses that exist are full of it; displayed in virtual homes, virtual galleries, or up for auction at Sotheby’s Decentraland. A Metaverse is little more than an extension of the real world, and as such current development revolves around a lot of real world concepts; virtual music venues, virtual clothes shops, and of course, virtual art galleries. Some of these may exhibit digital scans of real world works, like a digitised Louvre, but many are more naturally focusing on art created in a digital way.
NFTs fit into this world very well, providing a structure for virtual galleries to sell digital artworks, or providing personal virtual spaces where your NFT collection can be displayed in their native environment. The more we move towards virtual worlds and metaverses, the more the demand for digital art is likely to increase as people look to beautify it, and there are some interesting new possibilities for artists to explore. 3-dimensional digital objects and sculptures can probably be best appreciated through a VR headset, enabling the viewer to walk around the artwork and explore it.
Unsurprisingly, several platforms have started to emerge to help enable this, so that artists don’t have to create their own VR metaverse just to show some work; Cryptovoxels makes it easy setting up a art gallery space, and hosts many pop up and permanent galleries exhibiting a wide range of art. Other artists have dived into creating their own Metaverse experience, and utilising more of the potential of the Internet in the equation; Robert O’Leary put dancers in the UK and US in motion capture suits so they could dance together in a digital environment projecting digital images on the walls, and this barely scratches the surface.
The true nature of Digital Art and how it can use VR and Metaverse
Perhaps the greatest little-explored potential of VR and Metaverse is the opportunity to create impossible spaces; an art gallery on the moon, in space, underwater, in a volcano, and well beyond that. In the digital world the typical laws of physics need not apply, gravity and fluid dynamics can do almost anything you want them to, people can fly.
Great digital artists have always found ways to intrinsically place technology within their work, to find the unique component of a technology and exploit it to give viewers a new experience they can’t get anywhere else, a creative artwork that can only truly exist within this one technology. VR headsets outsold Playstation consoles last Christmas, so the audience is building, and we could see some really exciting concepts and ideas emerge.