Video still of wood frame of house overlooking airborne debris and small floating island off in the distance

Still from Styles and Customs of the 2020s, 2017, Virtual reality, variable duration, By Kim Laughton, based on text from DIS creative brief by Marvin Jordan, A Scatter X DIS Collaboration, Supported by the Hillman Photography Initiative at Carnegie Museum of Art

Lightime: Light + Perception

March–September 2017

How does photography shape virtual reality?

Artist studios DIS and Scatter consider the unique collaboration behind CMOA’s first virtual reality experience.

Commissioned to explore how new photographic technologies change the way we perceive light, space, and objects in virtual worlds, New-York based artist collective DIS developed Styles and Customs of the 2020s. A visual essay on how a collaboratively reimagined future can shed light on our present moment, this concept was transformed into a virtual reality (VR) installation, also titled Styles and Customs of the 2020s, by New York–based artist collective Scatter through a unique multi-studio collaboration. Located in the museum’s Hall of Architecture, CMOA’s first VR experience presents a digital dystopia inflected by rapid climate change, social unrest, and shifting global economics.

When you first put on the VR headset, you are transported to an ancient cave, animated by the flickering light of an age-old fire. The cave begins to dissolve, revealing one of four futuristic scenes. Over the course of three minutes, you move through futuristic landscapes created through computational photography (external link), which combines cutting-edge research in camera technology, computer vision, and graphics. The result, much like Carnegie Museum of Art’s Hall of Architecture, is a collage of visual styles and images that unites different elements in new and unexpected ways and asks how a collision of light from the past and present can illuminate our current moment. Watch the Styles and Customs of the 2020s VR demo (external link).

On opening night, artists from DIS and Scatter were joined by architectural preservationist Chad Keller for The Virtual Reality Museum panel discussion (external link). The group shared ideas about the exciting potential that VR and new photographic technologies hold for museums. Afterwards, the public was invited to put on a headset and try out Styles and Customs of the 2020s for the first time. Listen to visitors talk about the VR experience (external link).


Generous support for the Hillman Photography Initiative is provided by the William Talbott Hillman Foundation and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.