The person spearheading the ArtScience Museum’s new-ish VR (virtual reality) gallery – the first permanent space dedicated to the medium here that opened last July – is its Programmer of Moving Image And Emerging Media, Jerome Chee.
The 33-year-old has a twofold charge laid upon him: First, he curates VR-based artworks and experiences for the gallery. Second, he comes up with traditional film programmes that complement these exhibitions or as stand-alone events.
Specialising in emerging media (a general label applied to nascent art, media forms and technologies) means that the works presented and how they’re understood by audiences is a top concern. “For films and more so something as new and experimental as VR, the line between being adventurous and flat-out esoteric can get really fine,” he explains.
“Hence as much as it is within my control, I try to strike a balance.”
A still from a VR film by art titan Marina Abramovic, from ArtScience Museum’s debut show Hyperrealities last July. It marked the first time Abramovic experimented with VR artworks.
Accessibility is also an important factor when it comes to programme write-ups (Chee says it has a big impact on the audience’s take-up rate) as well as managing the ratio of crowd-pleasers to boundary-pushing films. To further add to the user experience (as well as Chee’s responsibilities) are behind-the-scenes details like installing gentle ambient lighting and cosy pods to make the VR medium a lot more inviting to those new to it.
Chee – who has a degree in arts management – is familiar enough when it comes to film: He had previously led the marketing and programmes department at The Projector. And VR is still a small enough field in Singapore that artists who dabble with the technology can be found through social media.
“Emerging media is constantly evolving and so are audience habits… I don’t mind co-opting some mainstream things if that means creating an opportunity for people to experience it and, at the same time, engage them with challenging and meaningful materials,” he says. “It’s the slow road, but to me, it’s also the more inclusive one.”
Below, Chee shares with us his curation process and the emerging artists he recommends.