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New Heritage: New media art between cultural heritage experience and artefact

Conference Paper

New Heritage: New media art between cultural heritage experience and artefact

© Gingrich et al. Published by
BCS Learning and Development Ltd.
Proceedings of EVA London 2021, UK
http://dx.doi.org/10.14236/ewic/EVA2021.13
81
New Heritage:
New media art between cultural heritage
experience and artefact
Oliver M. Gingrich
Eike Falk Anderson
Alain Renaud
Bournemouth University
Bournemouth University
Bournemouth University
London, UK
Dorset, UK
Geneva, Switzerland
olivergingrich@gmail.com
eanderson@bournemouth.ac.uk
Alain.renaud@mintlab.ch
Evgenia Emets
David Negrao
Deborah Tchoudjinoff
Artist
Artist
Artist
Ericeira, Portugal
Ericeira, Portugal
London, UK
emetsjane@gmail.com
davidnegra@gmail.com
deborah@deboraht-ff.com
In the context of Media Art, the notion of cultural heritage experiences a renewed interest with
regards to accessibility, legacy and preservation. Contemporary media artists reimagine cultural
heritage, not only finding inspiration in classic art forms, but contributing to a deeper perceptual
understanding of historic context. Media Art and new technology help to provide new accessibility
to heritage through a variety of strategies, but also present novel artistic readings of cultural
contexts.
Cultural Heritage. New Media Art. Gamification. London Charter. Computer Graphics.
Figure 1: KIMA: Colour. Analema Group. National Gallery X. 2020
http://dx.doi.org/10.14236/ewic/EVA2021.13
82
1. INTRODUCTION
New Heritage (Kalay et al. 2007) - not to be
confused with the New Heritage paradigm (Araoz
2011) - refers to the intersection of Cultural
Heritage with New Media and the resulting creation
of heritage experiences that engage not just
existing but also new audiences, especially and
including digital natives. New media and
particularly their manifestation as multi-modal,
interactive digital media provide opportunities for
the presentation of cultural heritage that extend far
beyond the display of physical and tangible
artefacts, but can include the intangible (Silberman
2007) and also add new dimensions, such as
immersive experiences that transport audiences to
different points in time and space (Anderson &
Sloan 2020). The digital creations of New Heritage
are the foundation for the concept of Digital
Heritage (UNESCO 2019).
During the Covid-19 pandemic, New Heritage is
contributing more than ever to national, regional
and local cultural heritage experiences, providing
access and new, virtual forms of cultural
engagement when traditional sites for heritage
experiences such as museums, archives, libraries
and national trust sites were closed due to health
and safety considerations. The potential for
interactive, participatory, multi-sensory digital
heritage experiences to offer insight and knowledge
through innovative means as well as new learning
tools have been subject of a substantial body of
research ((Gingrich et al. 2018; Gingrich et al.
2019; Gingrich et al. 2020).). This paper discusses
trends across new heritage, while focusing on two
case studies KIMA: Colour by the Analema Group
and Baigala by Deborah Tchoudjinoff. Based on
different positions by researchers (Oliver Gingrich,
Eike Anderson / Bournemouth University), and
artists (Deborah Tchoudjinoff and the Analema
Group), this paper looks at a multitude of different
approaches across the cultural sector where media
can provide new experiences of classic heritage
and new forms of accessibility. In particular, we
present an overview of recent examples of
successful use of computer graphics in cultural
heritage, and discuss the creation of two artworks
that recontextualise cultural experience through the
prism of new media.
Deborah Tchoudjinoffs project Baigala II uses
installation art and VR to communicate the cultural
and natural heritage of Mongolia to a Western
audience. The Analema Group’s artwork KIMA:
Colour reinterprets artworks in the classic collection
at the National Gallery London as a 360 video and
sound art piece. Through these case studies, we
discuss key research questions:
How has new media changed the way we
experience heritage? What are the underlying
principles of audience experience? How can we
critically reflect on these new developments? Apart
from merely discussing new media art on cultural
heritage, we also investigate the notion of new
media art as heritage. How can such new forms of
cultural heritage be preserved when technologies
and its underlying platforms evolve so rapidly.
What are the challenges, creators (i.e. artists,
curators, developers) and the public face when
experiencing such new heritage? Does a critical
analysis of context remain possible, if the goal
consists in entertaining a mass audience? How
does the concept of gamification come into play as
a facilitator, and/ or a distractor and shield from
historic authenticity? What are the criteria of
success applied to new heritage experiences from
the point of view of the audience, researchers and
artists?
Figure 2: Baigala II by Deborah Tchoudjinoff
2. INTERACTIVE VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENTS AS NEW
HERITAGE
New Heritage attracts new audiences, and there
are many opportunities for heritage presentation
and preservation that are inherent with recent
digital technologies. Of special interest among
these is the infrastructure for the creation of
interactive virtual environments in which the
technologies and techniques for the development
of video games (Anderson et al. 2010) and VR not
only allow the creation of immersive experiences,
gamifying the heritage, but are particularly suited to
the preservation and presentation of intangible
cultural heritage (Anderson 2013).
Deborah Tchoudjinoff’s Baigala II, exhibited at V&A
Museum 2019 and the Slade School of Art
represents a case study in new heritage as a
vehicle for the preservation of intangible cultural
heritage The Mongolian word Baigala “is best
understood as a complex interactive field
comprised of being (humans, animals), object
(mountains, trees, rocks, grasses), and forces
(weather) that are governed by beings akin to
spirits (Humphrey & Sneath, 1999)
New Heritage
Oliver M. Gingrich et al.
83
Baigala II consists of a physical yurt (‘ger’), a
circular dwelling, erected out of plywood and a VR
installation that teleports audiences to Mongolian
regions. Participants are invited to chose between
two settings; a visually immersive panorama of
Tsoohor lake or an indoor visit to a local family’s
yurt. While the indoor scene feels domestic,
comforting, private and intimate, the outdoor setting
conveys Mongolia’s mesmerising wideness.
Visually, the lake environment is designed to
encapsulate psychedelic characteristics (bright and
diverse colour hues), exploring novel spiritual
aesthetics alluding to potential environmental and
ecological narratives. The physical, architectural
component of Baigala II, the yurt, is created using a
wood and felt structure, referencing traditional
Mongolian ‘ger’, which contrasts the intangible
heritage such as traditional customs and dialogues
of local residents experienced using the VR
application.
Deborah Tchoudjinoff Baigala II exemplifies the
potential of New Heritage to convey, present and
preserve intangible heritage through a mix of new
technology. Specifically, the domestic, private
cultures and traditions, such as tea drinking in
family settings, point to the power of new media to
transcend rites, but also language, dialect and non-
verbal traditions. In particular, the evoked feelings
of domesticity, of belonging, the ‘cosiness’ of a
family yurt, are clearly communicated in an
immediate, and personable manner.
Immersive qualities of the media chosen (VR,
installation) help to facilitate an almost intimate
setting. New media is frequently used to
communicate, but also conserve intangible
heritage, whether this is in an ethnographic,
sociological or artistic context.
Figure 3 & Figure 4: Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait and
KIMA: Colour Van Eyck. by The Analema Group.
National Gallery X. 2020.
Figure 5: Deborah Tchoudjinoff. Baigala II. 2019
New Heritage
Oliver M. Gingrich et al.
84
Figure 6: KIMA: Colour: Monet Analema Group. National Gallery X.
3. INTERACTIVE VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENTS AS NEW
HERITAGE3. KIMA: COLOUR: NEW HERITAGE
EXPERIENCE OF COLOUR HARMONIES
In order to research colour harmony in national
heritage artefacts within the National Gallery’s
collection. the Analema Group, an art collective
focusing on the intersection between sound and
vision, was commissioned to launch the world’s first
residency at National Gallery X.
The remit of National Gallery X consists in sparking
discussions on the National Gallery’s collection
through the use of contemporary media, research,
artistic practice, and technology. Created as a
collaborative space between King’s College
London and The National Gallery, the new physical
space was inaugurated by Tim Berners-Lee in
2019. Only a month later, the Analema Group
residency was interrupted by Covid-19, resulting in
a complete recontextualisation of the residency’s
research output.
KIMA: Colour discusses colour harmonies in some
of the National Gallery’s greatest artworks including
Vincent Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Cypresses
(1889), Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait (1434),
and Monet’s Water Lillies Setting Sun (1908).
Looking at colour as data, and correlating this data
with sound, KIMA: Colour was originally designed
as an immersive light installation. With Covid-19,
National Gallery X and the art collective translated
the original artwork into a virtual framework,
thereby shifting the focus from a physical space
into an abstracted, multi-sensory artwork.
KIMA: Colour was created as three 360 immersive
artworks that can be experienced either on a
smartphone, tablet or VR headset, involving 360
spatial sound and 360 images. The audience is
immersed into a constantly evolving, viscose
exploration of colour tones and colour palettes,
sampled from the artworks at the National Gallery’s
collection.
The result of intense discussions with the National
Gallery’s research team including the Principal
Scientist at the National Gallery, Joe Padfield and
Head of Science, Marika Spring, as well as the
National Gallery’s curators, Thomas Dalla Costa on
Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne (1520-1523), the
National Gallery’s Head of Conservation, Larry
Keith on Diego Velazquez’ Rockeby Venus (1647)
and the National Gallery’s Deputy Director Susan
Foister on JMW Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire
(1839) and Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait (1434).
These discussions involved deep insights into
colour pigmentation, as well as historic context of
the paintings and their respective use of colour.
The research was led by research questions on the
potential of multi-sensory, immersive media art to
encourage interest in cultural heritage, and their
use of colour at the National Gallery. A secondary
research question was concerned with the specific
context of the creation and display of the artwork
and investigated if participatory media art such as
KIMA: Colour can contribute to social
connectedness by providing shared cultural
experiences during Covid-19 and times of social
distancing?
New Heritage
Oliver M. Gingrich et al.
85
Figure 7: National Gallery X
The resulting artwork consisted of three immersive
experiences that present colour palettes in the
artwork of three great masters presented in the
collection of the National Gallery. These new
artworks were made accessible to the wider public
through The National Gallery’s networks and were
flanked by two surveys and a making of film
featuring the artists and curators of The National
Gallery. During the UK’s first national lockdown,
audiences were able to experience colour palettes
within the National Gallery’s cultural heritage
collection as experimental, atmospheric abstracted
colour simulations from the comfort of their homes.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the role of new
heritage shifted from being a secondary source of
information, providing additional entertainment
value to historic sites, towards providing
fundamental functionality of access to historic
artefacts, while citizens were confined to their
homes - a situation often accompanied by social
isolation and sensory deprivation. New heritage
and artworks such as KIMA: Colour can provide
valuable resources of multi-sensory and
participatory engagement, during a hiatus of
physical interactions due to health and safety
measures being in place.
4. NEW HERITAGE DURING COVID-19
The Covid-19 crisis has instigated physical
segregation and nuclearisation of creative
activities with the confinement of creative
engagement to residential homes. Even after
lockdown easing, there is a likelihood of a
persistence of social distancing, and increased
difficulty for the public to enjoy cultural activities.
There is a clear societal need to support cultural
engagements, not least to prevent social isolation,
loneliness and sensory deprivation.
Recent research by Dr. Daisy Fancourt of UCL’s
Behavioural Science & Health (Fancourt & Steptoe
2020) points to an increase in perceived loneliness
during the Covid-19 health crisis. Mental Health
Guidance by the UK government (DDCMS 2018)
suggests that a key method of maintaining mental
health is to consider how to connect with others.
UCL’s heritage in hospitals report (2008-2011)
points to a significant increase in patient’s
wellbeing and happiness scores through the
engagement with museum artefacts. HLF funded
‘Inspiring Futures’ (Warby et al. 2016) project
delivered by Manchester Museum and Imperial
War Museum in Salford pointed to a 75% increase
in wellbeing after taking part in regular cultural
activities.
Creative engagement reduces cognitive decline,
and optimises cognition by increasing brain blood
flow directly linked to neuronal wellbeing (Chapman
2016). But arts and culture not only benefit the
elderly, and frail, but all spectra of society. As much
as the research context of participatory arts in
health and wellbeing is well understood, more
research is needed to understand how multi-
sensory art such as participatory sound art can
help in conditions of sensory deprivation or social
isolation such as experienced by large parts of
society during the Covid-19 health crisis.
The KIMA: Colour project, commissioned by The
National Gallery as part of the National Gallery X
residency, aimed to make cultural experiences
accessible to audiences at home during the first UK
national lockdown during March June 2020. The
research team worked hand in hand with a team at
National Gallery to understand several key
research questions. We tested both impact and
outreach, as well as the effectiveness of the piece
to stimulate interest in the National Gallery’s
collection. A quantitative, observational survey was
administered to a sample of King’s College
researchers (N=10) for beta-testing to ascertain the
effectiveness of the piece to encourage interest in
the original artworks and the effectiveness of the
multi-sensory characteristics of the artwork:
New Heritage
Oliver M. Gingrich et al.
86
Figure 8: KIMA Colour experienced on the phone
All users reported that they understood that they
were able to navigate the environment in 360°
degrees. The majority of beta-users (54.6%)
confirmed that the 360° soundscape improved the
visual experience of colour in the artwork
Importantly, the vast majority 63.6% attested that
the experience made them curious to revisit the
original artwork after lockdown. The beta-test study
was framed by a survey administered in
collaboration with the team at The National Gallery.
Visitors reported that it was ‘so innovative to
present this kind of art during lockdown and to
bring art to people at home’ (anonymous). As a
case study, KIMA: Colour exemplifies the potential
of new heritage not only to provide alternate forms
of audience engagements, but to provide access
and nourish a public need for access to cultural
experiences.
5. CRITICAL ANALYSIS & CONCLUSION
The new media technologies that allow the creation
of New Heritage artefacts provide many
opportunities for creators and audiences but
require that the creators understand the
technology, how best to use it, as well as the
audience, to ensure that these opportunities are not
wasted.
Gamification, i.e. the playful use of user
interaction/audience participation to facilitate an
introduction of gameplay elements into an activity
or artefact, is non-trivial, and due to poor
understanding of gameplay or unsuitable design
decisions, many gamification attempts fail
(Morschheuser et al. 2017). As gamified systems
create games with a purpose beyond
entertainment, they are essentially “serious games”
(Sawyer 2002). It must be noted, though, that
adding a scoring system and leaderboard is not
enough to gamify an activity or artefact if the end
result is neither entertaining nor visually attractive.
In his seminal paper “From visual simulation to
virtual reality to games”, Zyda (2005) highlights the
importance of fun and entertainment aspects for
“serious games”, which would include gamified new
heritage experiences.
Figure 9: Baigala II experienced via VR in a Yurt
These aspects are essential, as audiences quickly
lose interest if games are not entertaining and
appealing, which in turn can have the effect that
historic authenticity has a lower priority than the
gaming/gameplay aspects. User/consumer
expectations, informed by the quality of current
commercial video games for entertainment, are
very high (Anderson et al. 2010), and to maintain
their audience, new heritage products need to
match this in terms of gameplay as well as quality
of the visual outputs, which can be achieved by
selecting the same type of system infrastructure
and processes as the one employed in the creation
of entertainment products, the complexity of which
is often underestimated (Blow 2004). The
gamification of New Heritage thus requires the
figurative walking of a tightrope, striking a balance
between gameplay elements and visual appeal of
the heritage artefact to attract the audience with the
objective of facilitating and maintaining historic
authenticity. Negotiating these conflicting objectives
and finding this balance tends to be unique for
each project and requires careful design, gameplay
testing (Champion 2015) and some form of user
evaluation to establish if the aims of the project are
met by the New Heritage artefact.
New Heritage unfortunately not only provides now
opportunities, but also creates its own set of
problems and difficulties. The rapid advances of
digital technologies and the inherent changes
created by this progress have the unintended
consequence that New Heritage artefacts that are
New Heritage
Oliver M. Gingrich et al.
87
"born digital", i.e. that only ever existed in a digital
form, are from the point of their creation in danger
of extinction and in need of digital preservation
(Gladney 2006; UNESCO 2009) in order to avoid
becoming a victim of the eventual obsolescence of
the technology used to create them. This would
result in a loss of access to these New Media
artefacts which would ban them to the obscurity of
the digital dark ages (Kuny 1997). An example for
this is the "Touch and Wellbeing" exhibition created
as part of the Heritage in Hospitals project
(www.ucl.ac.uk/culture/projects/heritage-hospitals)
that is no longer accessible due to the continuation
of the Flash technology that it was built on.
Figure 10: KIMA Colour: Van Gogh
As physical access to cultural institutions across
the globe became limited during the Covid-19
health crisis, new media art provided new forms of
cultural engagement possibilities for global
audiences, to art collections, heritage sites, and
new media art. This new heritage is driven by the
need of cultural institutions to diversify access and
continue to provide cultural offerings for global
audiences, and by a public interest in continued
cultural offerings. Whether access to historic sites
(e.g. Aachen Cathedral www.aachenerdom.de), or
all new artworks as in the case of Analema Group’s
KIMA: Colour, new media, the use of computer
graphics, digital art, and technology-facilitated
design strategies enable new forms of cultural
audience participations on a global scale. In a
global cultural landscape still largely characterized
by digital poverty, the need for access
considerations by art and heritage institutions
remains of utmost importance.
Figure 11: Baigala II visual representation
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