The Virtual Museum
/// 1991/2007 /// Interactive Environment
/// Jeffrey Shaw


Interactivity and virtuality have been the mark of Jeffrey Shaw’s works since the late 60’s, which are also the main characteristics of The Virtual Museum, an interactive installation, three-dimensionally generated, which made its first public appearance in 1991 and which is presented in a slightly amended version: the display system became hemispherical and the software was updated to run on standard pc hardware. In The Virtual Museum, the visitor is invited to take a seat. Once accepting this invitation he then becomes both viewer and actor performing between real and virtual space. In departing from the same locations (the space in the virtual and in the real world is the same), traveling through the different rooms of the ZKM is achieved by means of simple bodily commands. The armchair functions as the motor and is commanded by the slight movement of the body in one or the other direction (front, back, left, right). While making these movements the visitor is directly actuating the virtual space in which he is able to visit and enjoy the different exhibitions: sculpture, painting, film and digital media. It antedates the computer games, Egoshooter-worlds and three-dimensional computer worlds such as Second Life.
From beginning to end (A to Z), the voyage is proportioned by code and light (energy). Such possibilities of representation formulate the coordinates of the viewer’s voyage and make him experience the suspended perception of weight, react (via the possible movements) to non-existent obstacles and, without leaving the seat, find himself completely immersed in the “physicality” the image designs in his mind.

Jeffrey Shaw (*1944, Melbourne) founding director of the ZKM | Institute for Visual Media and the Cinema Research Center, Sydney (AUS). The artist counts among the pioneers of interactive media art. Since the 1960s Shaw has been creating intermedial participative environments with immersive pictorial strategies.


Design and realization: Jeffrey Shaw
Application software and programming: Gideon May (1991), Joachim Tesch (2007)
3D modeling: Christina Zartmann (2007)
Hardware: Huib Nelissen und Bas Bossinade
Production: Jeffrey Shaw in cooperation with the Städelschule, Institute for New Media, Frankfurt/M. (1991); re-implementation 2007: ZKM | Media Museum and ZKM | Institute for Visual Media

Photo: Anatole Serexhe

Jeffrey Shaw, The Virtual Museum, 1991/2007, interactive Environmen, ZKM_Collection