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May 17th, 2021 | by Mathieu Gayet

“In the distribution of original XR works, you have to be creative!” - Nataliya Velykanova (Gate22)

Graphic designer and now immersive artist, Nataliya Velykanova is also the founder of Gate22, one of the first French virtual museums. A concept she has been developing since Toulouse (France), where she has been living for the past ten years, and which is developing both online and through local actions.

In selection with her project INTROSPEXION at Recto VRso 2021, we spoke with Nataliya about virtual design, immersive gallery and XR distribution.

More information on Recto VRso 2021

Version française

From XR creation to virtual distribution

Nataliya Velykanova - I studied Fine Arts and then architecture in Ukraine where I was born, through a classical path. I arrived in Toulouse to finish my architectural studies, and I stayed there. For the last ten years I've been working in the creative field, first with a very concrete side, ink and painting. Then I worked as a graphic designer, which made me meet by chance the world of digital and immersive creation. But distribution has always been an issue, whether it's to broadcast on social media or in VR. The idea for Gate22 came from my personal experience.

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N. V. - There are many different concepts when it comes to virtual museums, uses and habits. And it was at that time very little known. After sharing the idea I saw the enthusiasm and interest of such a project, and I proposed Gate22 to a Toulouse pre-incubator, the Starter. The adventure started with this accompaniment in the fall of 2019, very useful to launch this type of project and not to remain alone facing the adventure of entrepreneurship. The Covid crisis has changed the project in its purpose, focusing on mobility above all.

N. V. - When it comes to cultural distribution, you have to be creative. Where institutions take time to transform and adapt, we now offer a nomadic format of Gate22 at the local level. As a start-up we allow us this flexibility, especially in a fast-moving industry. Finally, the Gate22 model has also developed with the idea of paying artists more directly.

Gate22, a virtual broadcasting portal

N. V. - Gate22 is a digital art museum in virtual reality. It is different from others because mediation is integrated - and this is crucial. Our priority is to promote digital art to the public. There is an accompaniment to be made which seems to us essential, in what remains a full experience. In my opinion, this proposal does not exist in other virtual museums (MOR, Dimoda ...) where the viewer is left to himself. Whereas VR allows to create a real link, to guide the public! So we script all this with a common thread as for INTROSPEXION which is only the first part of a larger exhibition.

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N. V. - INTROSPEXION is an internal project that also serves as a prototype, and allows us to present Gate22 and all its capabilities to both the public and the artists. It is more experiential art than a simple object, closer to a live, sensory installation. We are now offering a version for the Quest that allows us to bring this to the audiences around us, mainly at the local level; in companies, associations etc. And it's fascinating, because if culture is closed because of the crisis we can go to the public. And there too we privilege the understanding of the environment, by placing the spectator in the heart of a real virtual cocoon, a sort of preamble to the experience. INTROSPEXION will be proposed to festivals (like Recto VRso this spring where I could exchange with other artists during the sessions organized by the festival) this year as an introduction to Gate22, and promote the project.

N. V. - Virtual reality can dehumanize at certain moments, but I prefer to accompany the audience with a real mediator, in the physical world. Rather than letting go of the public in front of the virtual, we accompany them in the physical world and provoke an exchange. The reopening of cultural venues gives us hope to accelerate our presentations. Our model "Workshop to go" is bound to develop, depending on the size of the place and the number of people, in the region or on a national level. We are currently looking for the right contacts to help us.

Next steps... (in Toulouse and elsewhere)

N. V. - With Gate22 we also try to work on the type of projects we want to propose. We are often outside the criteria of events or festivals that host immersive works. It is a discussion to have, because we are neither a film, nor an application, nor a video game but an artistic proposal where we associate different works in a single whole. But a lot of things are developing, especially proposals linked to reality. In Toulouse alone, several artists' collectives are working on very interesting XR projects, like Corinne Linder and Fheel Concepts (link).

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N. V. - I have just started two new projects, notably a co-creation between Gate22 and SPAMM (the Super Modern Art Museum - link) with a virtual reality experience and an interactive book associated with a virtual character on social networks. We want to talk about our digital identities with the young public, in the good uses as well as the bad ones, to associate the artistic with the educational. We hope to propose it to schools when it will be possible. It's a project that can be deployed on many media, organize lives...

N. V. - And with La Mêlée (link), an occitan association around digital of which I am a member, we hope to propose soon an event dedicated to XR creation - VRJam - within the framework of La Mêlée Numérique from September 27th to October 2nd 2021. We try to highlight local talents, which are surprisingly numerous in terms of immersive production!

More info : gate22.net

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