The Magmus
Virtual museum
2020-

(Ongoing project. Text in progress)

Imagine yourself atop the green fields of that iconic old desktop background of Windows XP. It is vast and lush and green, almost artificially bright, always open. Now, imagine everyone else in the world on that same exact field, though never simultaneously, so that no one ever really meet each other there. Thank you for your imagination. The hill is real and not a computer generated image. It is located in Sonoma, California, USA. The photograph, titled Bliss, was shot by Charles O’Rear in 1996, and was purchased by Windows in 2000.

Dissonance occurs between this digital landscape and the physical analogue world we all live in, complicating forms of interpersonal and mass communication. The global political climate is shaped by stark imagery of war and impending climate catastrophes, and is seemingly becoming increasingly polarised. Comment sections serve as central battlegrounds between anonymous hate-speech of opposing forces, and extremist groups and individuals plan terror on meme-centric chat forums for incels. We feed our egos on double taps, and we document our experiences, willingly giving away our rights to our content, all the while filling up distant server-factories of unknown density. The space is governed by obscured policies and structures, and we're left confused and neurotic.

This all sets the scene for The Magmus. The Magmus is a virtual museum of artefacts. The artefacts are all translations of things. The things are all of the artist's things.

Using photogrammetry techniques, every belonging of the artist will be scanned into digital 3D objects. The artist bring things to its studio at Oslo National Academy of the Arts. It walks a couple rounds around every thing and capture it from multiple angles (by taking approximately 100-170 photographs using its DSLR camera). The photographs are imported onto its hard-drive, and are camera-corrected in photo-editing software to as closely as possible resemble the things in the light of the room they were photographed in. The photographs are then imported into a 3D-generating software, which align cameras (in this instance each individual photograph) within its calculated space, based on the position of certain points of the object as they appear in the photographs. With the aligned cameras, the program then builds a complex dense cloud full of object points, and later a 3D-mesh of the object based on this dense cloud. The final step of the scan is to create a texture. The software combines all the photographs into one flat jpeg-image of the entire object which other software can wrap around the mesh to create a final, textured model. By definition, the thing has now become an artefact, and is finally placed into a virtual museum building, navigable by virtual reality hardware.

The Magmus itself is treated as a sentient being, a body in charge of curating the various rooms of the building. It has no relation to the things other than the fact that the artefacts of which all belong to the museum, are the same as the things. Their strategy of curation is to assign the artefacts values (numbers pertaining to placement) at complete random. This prevents outside influence and corrupt agendas. The narratives about the artefacts, their relation to each other and to their origin, are thereby formed by mere artificial chance.

The success rate of the scan is dependent on the thing itself. If the thing is highly reflective, transparent or un-static, the program will struggle to identify certain object points due to the point’s variable light and/or colour properties. Some cameras will be left unused, and some will be aligned incorrectly within the 3D-space by the software. This often result in warped and skewed renders, unrecognisable to their physical counterparts.

The table of which every thing is scanned atop from in the artist's studio is predominantly white. It tends to blend into the things themselves during the artefacts becoming due to its stark, incalculable flatness. This is also the case with the white studio walls when scanning bigger objects. New edges are created on the models. Flat surfaces bend into new inorganic, impossibly jagged shapes, mutations of surrounding. These digital malfunctions remain inside/on/around/behind/under/atop/in front of the artefacts. It makes them look as if they were carved out of some ancient cavernous white ruin. This noisy debris is as fragile as the artefact it mutates, and is thereby not fixable/removable during or after the blurry process of acquisition.

The digital artefacts themselves are destroyed as things in their static, weightless, now untouchable nature. They feel old. Like fossils. You can’t use any of them. So in some ways, they certainly belong in a museum. Simultaneously, the rapid evolution of digital technology is destined to obsolete everything. The artefacts will dissolve and disappear much faster than most of the physical things they are created in light of, rendering the virtual museum problematic as a museum, if the mission of a museum is to preserve and redistribute.