Augmented Reality (AR) is slowly creeping into our daily lives, through games like Pokémon Go and the virtual furniture placement feature in IKEA’s app. In a nutshell, AR is a digital medium which adds layers of visual information on top of our reality. It alters our experience of reality, attempting a sensation which looks and feels as if it were real. AR elements are visible through low-tech devices like our smartphones or Google Glass.
Augmented Reality in Arts
AR is socially immersive, in which 'social' means that its layers contain information which connects to the reality of its location and 'immersive' to physically being located in a non-physical world. This leads to interesting developments and concepts in the arts. I’ve tackled three factors which I believe are vital to the development of Augmented Reality into a creative social platform.
Creating - Even though AR is created for non-artistic purposes, it can be used as an artistic tool, like in painting or photography. In fact, artists are important in developing AR because they creatively explore its unique abilities and challenge its affordances, creating new visuals and products. Many AR artworks are interactive, which means that the audience can actively engage instead of only passively consume artworks (Papagiannis, 2017; Love, 2018).
The community can participate in transforming society and traditional artistic values, like the creators of the AR app MoMAR, who hacked their own artworks onto the Jackson Pollock exhibition at the MoMA museum in New York. Through the app visitors enter the unauthorized gallery, enabling them to see digital artworks which would otherwise remain invisible. With this project the MoMAR artists protest against the elite exclusivity of the museum and curation of art, and emulate physical exhibition spaces (Katz, 2018).
Hello, we are from the internet by MoMAR (2018)
Sharing - People are already glued to their phones, connecting over the internet and social media with friends and people with common interests. Because AR is digital, it’s easily accessible to those people. They can quickly share their experiences, collaborating in and contributing to a global network.
Playing – Because AR is programmed it has unlimited possibilities as an artistic medium. For example, it can be used as a virtual extended canvas for traditional artworks to display background information on the artist and educational animations, or to create interactive games which encourage physical social interaction and a sense of mutual achievement.
AR also shapes playful experiences, like the mural Moto Wall on which the audience can virtually edit their own compositions, moving colours and dynamic shapes in its linked app. In the context of museums, AR could display any artwork in any room or space, letting visitors self-curate exhibitions from artworks which are physically at the other side of the world or not even on display. Through play AR users can explore their creative abilities and personal interpretations of art in self-constructed experiences.
Moto Wall by Heavy Projects (2013)
Augmented reality as a non-traditional art space
Keeping these factors in mind, I think AR will provide a platform similar to street-art, a non-traditional space in which anyone can create, express, experience and play with art, with the addition of digitality and high share-ability.
Heavy. (2013). Augmented Reality Fine Art: Motowall. Heavy Projects Portfolio.
Katz, M. (2018). Augmented Reality Is Transforming Museums. Wired Magazine.
Love, T. (2018). Is The Future of Art Augmented? Medium - The Establishment.
Papagiannis, H. (2017). The Critical Role of Artists in Advancing Augmented Reality. In A. De Grey (Ed.), The Next Step: Exponential Life. Madrid: BBVA Open Mind.