Tommy Ku Photography

Virtual Exhibition on Mozilla Hub

A virtual art exhibition could be the best showcase of the recent hypes surrounding NFT and Metaverse, together marketed as the decentralized (but not really) Web 3 that's trying to both beg for and pretend to be solving problems while accelerating damage to the environment along the way. My skepticism is cannot be more obvious. I should probably leave the technical part of it to my blog.

And today I simply wish to show you…

The Exhibition

You can visit The Exhibition, a virutal photo gallery made by me, on Mozilla Hub.

Physical gallery is probably very expensive, and I don't really have anything up-to-par for a proper photo exhibition. However, wouldn't it be cool that I can hand-craft an experience for the visitors to my "gallery", albeit virtual, to get a feeling of how it'd be like if and when my dream of a physical photo gallery was realized?

You don't need to be good to have a hobby because most of the time the goal of having a hobby isn't about being good but to enjoy it.

The Virtual Exhibition Space

OK, after I have decided I want to host an exhibition, where and how can I do that? There exist many polished virtual exhibition websites which will impress the viewer by the 3D-ness of their platform. Artsteps for one example allows artists to esaily create an exhibition for free, and the built-in templates definitely covers the basics, while allowing creative freedom for artists to create their own space.

Untitled, by Carina Hernandez

Another worthy mention is New Art City which takes a more liberatory approach with many spaces filled with Web 1.0-esque flashy colorful graphics. Unfortunately, it offers only monthly paid service and the source code is private.

New art city
不幸福利社 Generation Bored Stiff, by 水谷藝術 Waley Art

There are many other obvious choices which I am intentionally omitting here. Consider a spectrum of artistic virtual spaces between realism and chaos. Artsteps is rather realistic while New Art City is more on the chaotic side. Other virtual exhibition services are also somewhere on this spectrum.

After reviewing a number of options, I reached a conclusion that I envision my exhibition space should be more on the realistic side at first. But it's rather bland for a number of photos to be posted in a space with realistic-looking light and shadow, displaceable by another set of photos of another artists without material. It ends up more about the space, not the photos, or the experience.

For my online exhibition, the form should be part of the content and should elevate it for the format to actually matter.

Self-hosting Content

To me, one big thing about anything online is it should be public facing right out of the box, unlike walled gardens such as Facebook or Instagram in which an account is required before the public can access the content fully.

In that sense, Artsteps and New Art City failed to enable me to store my own content freely. They hold my content hostage. Even if I paid, there are a million ways they could be blocking or deleting (or refuse to delete) my content because "Terms of Service". Ideally, I should be able to self-host any content I own in the form of my likings.

Mozilla Hub is, somewhat there, offering the solution be self-hosted on AWS or Digital Ocean. It's somewhat there because they offer no choice other than AWS and Digital Ocean, meaning these 2 places are holding my content hostage still.

With that being said, I ended up choosing the free hosting space Mozilla Hub is offering as opposed to self-hosting my own. This is an exploratory project so I want to keep it low-cost.

The Exhibition on Mozilla Hub

Once you have entered into my Exhibition Mozilla Hub, you are prompted to select a username and an avatar visible to other visitors in the room. You are then dropped into a 3D space reassembling a gallery, with my photos hung on the wall.

There are some sophisticated high-poly 3D models that I sourced from Sketchfab as decoration and a royalty free music track plays in the background. Design of the space is influenced by Art Gallery Brno in Czech Republic.

The decision to use Mozilla Hub is also influenced by Apart, a Mozilla Hub-based gallery that's made in Blender and then imported into Mozilla Hub via Mozilla Spoke. Apart features an immersive virtual gallery plus some effects only possible in a virtual world.

How did the gallery turn out?

As for my exhibition itself, it's way less impressive than how I'd originally imagined. Perhaps it's less about the form, but more about the content. The collection of photos that I was showcasing did not have proper connection and they are not presenting a message as works on a normal gallery would.

This was made obvious as I struggled to create description to each work. To me, these are just photos of different things that were created without any intention. Rather like placing a camera between me and a scene that pleased my eyes as I viewed them, yet lack critical depth to be anything more meaningful than that.

Exhibit "Look Up"

The same can probably go for the majority of my works. I could cluster them into collection and still struggle to find any meaning in there. Of course, assigning meaning to work posted on nstagram daily is a rather big ask.

Which you know, confirms my ask to step-up my photography in the way to becoming more than mere photos, but an art. In this way, I believe the gallery failed to meet my original intention, yet earned itself back by being an important lesson to me.