…With his old Second Life collaborators Lily and Honglei, Levy is now working on an ambitious VR project to re-create the East Village, where several of Dslcollection’s artists honed their craft. Lily and Honglei considered several platforms for the VR Art Village: VRchat, Sinespace, and Second Life / Linden Lab’s Sansar, eventually going with Sansar for its capability to host several hundred people at the same time.
A short clip of the project shows a semi-armored virtual avatar jogging around a rural village on a cloudy evening. An abandoned cement factory looms large in the background. Players will be able to take part in events, watch live performances, and meet artists in the space. There’s even a transport system to get around. There will be artists’ workshops and storefronts — a barbershop and a bookstore — and a countryside school that houses a cinema, stemming from Lily and Honglei’s memories of growing up in Beijing.
Beyond bringing the fine art world into one small corner of the metaverse, the VR Art Village is also a living homage to one of the significant periods in Chinese contemporary art history, of which little historical material survived. “To everyone’s surprise, systemic documentation about 1980s and 1990s society in China is surprisingly scarce and scattered, you just can’t find things,” says Lily. Born from the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, the East Village was a short-lived haven for political discourse through art in a particularly volatile era. “I think if we can provide the social context for the Dslcollection, that will be something special,” Lily says. “When you look at artwork in museums and galleries, they’ve somehow lost context with the society and environment which produced or influenced those artworks.”
The designers are also opening up the village to the Grand Palais, which will have a sculpture garden for their collection. The ultimate plan is to keep adding more spaces and connect them together, and Lily eventually hopes to include the art community in New York. “This platform is a bit like the game of Fortnite,” says Levy. “I think this will be the next level, and we will release this platform by the end of the year.” Lily estimates that the village is about 70 percent complete; they’re just waiting for the art to arrive.