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Into the Twilight Zones: Art and Virtual/Augmented Reality in the West

Thu February 27th 2020, 4:30 - 6:45pm
Event Sponsor
Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University;
The Cantor Arts Center
Cantor Arts Center Auditorium
Stanford University
328 Lomita Drive @ Museum Way
Into the Twilight Zones: Art and Virtual/Augmented Reality in the West
It is the intention of this symposium to explore the challenges, opportunities, and limitations that the emergence of virtual and augmented reality offers artists and museums based in the American West. This event will investigate the ways art and technology are driving how art is experienced and the future of museums. 


The potential augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have to shakeup the art world is slowly taking shape. AR and VR artworks are changing the art world by allowing artists to fuse physical art with digital content. New work is being created and existing work re-imagined. 
AR is the integration of digital information with the user’s environment in real time. Unlike VR that creates a totally artificial reality, AR uses the existing environment and overlays new information on top of it. VR is an artificial world that is experienced through sensory stimuli (such as sight and sound) provided by a computer and VR goggles/headset in which one’s actions are determined by what happens in the surrounding environment. 
Museums are beginning to experiment with utilizing these new technologies to enhance the experience to a virtual user. AR is layered on top of what is already physically present in a museum as a way to enhance or add to what is already there. AR and VR artworks offer a more holistic form of storytelling and can lead to unexpected results by allowing visitors to use their smart phones as a new way to learn about art, science, and history.  

This program will explore issues that arise from this new media for museums, artists, and collectors from a western perspective.


Jeremy Bailenson, Professor of Communications, Stanford University; Director, Virtual Human Interaction Lab

"Virtual Becomes Reality"


Elizabeth Merritt, Founding Director, Center for the Future of Museums

"VR, AR, and IRL: Parsing Museum Applications for Immersive Technology"

Yelena Rachitsky, Executive Producer of Experiences at Oculus/Facebook

"Designing for Emotion"

Jennifer Steinkamp, Artist & Professor of Design Media Arts, UCLA

"My Mixed Reality"


Camille Utterback, Assistant Professor of Art and Art History, Stanford University


Color headshot of Jeremy Bailenson

Jeremy Bailenson

Thomas More Storke Professor of Communications, Stanford University

Jeremy Bailenson is founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, Thomas More Storke Professor in the Department of Communication, Professor (by courtesy) of Education, Professor (by courtesy) Program in Symbolic Systems, a Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment, and a Faculty Leader at Stanford’s Center for Longevity. He earned a B.A. cum laude from the University of Michigan in 1994 and a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Northwestern University in 1999. He spent four years at the University of California, Santa Barbara as a Post-Doctoral Fellow and then an Assistant Research Professor.

Bailenson studies the psychology of Virtual and Augmented Reality, in particular how virtual experiences lead to changes in perceptions of self and others. His lab builds and studies systems that allow people to meet in virtual space, and explores the changes in the nature of social interaction. His most recent research focuses on how virtual experiences can transform education, environmental conservation, empathy, and health. He is the recipient of the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at Stanford.

He has published more than 100 academic articles and books, inlucing his most recent monograph: Experience on Demand: What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do (Norton, 2018), considered a leading primer on the subject. His work has been continuously funded by the National Science Foundation for the last 15 years.


Color headshot of Elizabeth Merritt

Elizabeth Merritt

Vice President of Strategic Foresight and Founding Director, Center for the Future of Museums

Elizabeth is the American Alliance of Museums' (AAM) vice president for strategic foresight, and founding director of the Center for the Future of Museums—a think-tank and research & development lab for the museum field. She is the author of the Alliance’s annual TrendsWatch report, and writes and speaks prolifically on the trends shaping the future of nonprofit organizations. (M.A. Duke University, B.S. Yale University, Museum Management Institute).


Color headshot of Yelena Rachitsky

Yelena Rachitsky

Executive Producer of Media, Oculus/Facebook

Yelena Rachitsky is an Executive Producer of Media at Oculus, overseeing dozens of groundbreaking, narrative-driven VR projects that range from Pixar's first VR project to original independent work. Prior to Oculus, she was the Creative Producer at Future of Storytelling (FoST), which aims to change how people communicate and tell stories in the digital age. Yelena also helped program for the Sundance Film Festival and Institute's New Frontier program and spent four years in the documentary division at Participant Media, working on films like Food Inc. and Waiting for Superman. She's passionate about big creative ideas that will make technology meaningful.

Black and white headshot of Jennifer Steinkamp

Jennifer Steinkamp

Artist & Professor of Design Media Arts, UCLA
Jennifer Steinkamp is a Los Angeles based media and installation artist whose video animations explore nature, architecture, contemporary social issues, and the passage of time. Nature, twisted and changed through technology, is Steinkamp’s signature subject, and since the late 1980s the artist has produced a wide range of computer-generated realities. By manipulating existing computer code, primarily using the 3-D animation software, Steinkamp transforms architectural spaces with light, dematerializing walls and filling the constructed environment with hyperreal and, simultaneously, clearly artificial mimicry of organic forms. Steinkamp’s colorful moving images disorient and lull the viewer into a sense of calm—a world both familiar and foreign, real and virtual. She has been the subject of numerous exhibitions at such venues as: The Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; The Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York; MassMoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts; and the Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah. Her art has toured worldwide with the band U2. She has received many awards and recognition, she was the J. Paul Getty Artist in Residence, Getty Artist program in 2010-11, she was the US representative for the 11th Cairo International Biennale, Egypt; she received an Honorary Doctorate from the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena. Steinkamp is featured in many prominent public art collections.

Camille Utterback

Assistant Professor of Art and Art History, Stanford University

Camille Utterback's interactive installations, generative, site-specific, and reactive works engage participants in a dynamic process of kinesthetic discovery and play. Utterback's work explores the aesthetic and experiential possibilities of linking computational systems to human movement and gesture in visually layered ways. Her work aims to focus attention on the continued relevance and richness of the body in our increasingly mediated world. Utterback has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford since 2013. She also holds a courtesy appointment in the Department of Computer Science. Utterback's extensive exhibit history includes more than fifty shows on four continents. Recent shows include Black Out - Silhouettes Then and Now at the National Portrait Gallery (2018), Watch This! at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (2015), and solo shows at Haines Gallery in San Francisco (2019), the Stanford Art Gallery (2017) and Emerson College's Urban Arts’ Media Art Gallery in Boston, MA (2017). Awards and honors include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (2009) and a U.S. patent (2004) for video tracking software Utterback co-developed with collaborator Romy Achituv for their Text Rain installation (1999). Her work is represented by Haines Gallery in San Francisco.


The format of the symposium will be a two-hour and 15 minute event featuring a keynote speaker followed by three expert presentations. Each speaker will be given 30 minutes with a final moderated exchange among all participants. Our program concludes with a 15 minute exchange moderated by Camille Utterback, assistant professor of art practice. The symposium will feature four interdisciplinary participants representing academia, industry, the museum world, and a practicing VR artist.

Additional Resources

Jeremy Bailenson: A Conversation on VR and its Potential for the Arts, Prepared by Ms. Alexandra (Mac) Taylor (Feb. 2020)

Mixed Reality in the Museum, Prepared by Ms. Alexandra (Mac) Taylor (Dec. 2019)


Campus parking is free after 4 pm and directions can be found here.
Event image courtesy of Jennifer Steinkamp, Womb (2019)