However, “there definitely isn’t a central place for people to look for and experience this kind of content,” Dinsmore noted. “Part of the reason we were interested in working on this is ideally [the New Museum] could potentially turn it into a place where VR artists could submit their work and publish it directly to the app. That’s doable. But that doesn’t exist.” Historically, VR art has not been accessible outside of galleries or the occasional biennial—or to those who don’t own expensive viewing equipment. According to EEVO’s CTO Casey Hancock, who worked closely on the app over the past year along with president Matthew Griffiths, the New Museum is making this work broadly accessible, while still being able to express somewhat complicated ideas. “The most exciting part of each piece is seeing them for the first time in a headset; when you’re working on these things technically, to have that moment to see someone’s complex vision” come to fruition. This experience is one that, thanks to the app, can be shared infinitely.
Among those at the center of these movements is programmer and painter Rachel Rossin, the first-ever virtual reality fellow at the museum’s incubator NEW INC, who awed the crowd with beautifully deconstructed avatars from first-person-shooter game Call of Duty. “It’s such a relief and also such an honor for an institution to get behind this first initiative to put VR in a commissioned space,” she said. “Right now it is so disparate; it’s hard to find art, or you have to watch it in a gallery,” she added. The First Look: Artists’ VR app brings a whole new level of accessibility. Where I’ve personally seen Rossin’s virtual reality work in arranged settings—on an Oculus Rift in her studio, at an art gallery, an art fair, and most recently, projected in a 360-degree dome—it’s now conveniently available through the smartphone in my back pocket, ready for viewing with the help of Google Cardboard. “What’s also really wonderful about this is this version of it is completely democratic. It’s free,” she said.