Virtual Portals to the subversi-verse
From rosy animated layers to subversive phygital worlds
If you’ve been reading this newsletter, you know by now that I’m exploring new ways of integrating a third-dimensional dimension into my work. I’ve been working with Blender casually for a while for other projects but haven’t yet figure out a way to include it within the more analogue oriented work of (de).
I’m particularly attracted to Augmented Reality as a way to cross the boundary between the virtual and physical. But I feel that I haven’t yet seen a particular use of AR to augmented analog work that I was felt really excited about. Most common examples of AR art tend to be an animated version of the original static artwork. Which for me, feels like force fitting the digital into the real world... However, there is one analogy that I’m increasingly interesteed in: Augmented art as a ‘portal’.
For instance, imagine you’re walking down the street and you see a wheatpasted poster that grabs your attention. Normally you would just ignore it because your city is filled with all kinds of imagery in the public space but this time you decide to take out your phone to take a photograph (now this particular step is one of the key obstacles to a seamless AR experience). As usual, your camera detects an augmented layer to this poster but the thought of another animated poster almost steers you away from clicking on it. To your surprise, the poster transforms into some kind of portal bridging the virtual and the physical world: “what could be on the other side?”…
I like to think of it working in a similar way like Matrix’s dial phones or punk concert flyers to bands that no one ever heard of in venues that no one knew that existed. Both the Matrix phones and the punk rock flyers are entry points to a world that not everyone is aware of, unless you’re carefully looking. I imagine wheatpasted posters as portals for a not-so-secret virtual layer beneath every city. Portals to where? Some ideas:
A portal that only work when someone is on the other side. For instance, the same poster in different cities bring together people that were at the right time in the right place;
A portal that transport oneself into another location. For example my print ‘Climate Fiction’, that portrays the degradation of the Pedersen glacier in Alaska, could transport observers to that same place so they could see the impact of a warming planet with their own eyes;
A portal that transports people to a virtual forum where they can discuss issues related to their neighbourhood. Or in a more extreme example, for people living in an authoritarian regime a wheatpasted poster could take amore substantial role as an entry point for organising in virtual spaces;
A portal to a creative space where people can co-create new images and messages that can then be printed and wheatpasted again in the real world;
What I like about these is that it can bring a more site-specific approach to virtual spaces, by connecting the physical and the virtual layer, instead of presenting metaverse™ as an escape from the physical world where everything is possible. For now you can geotag 3d models so they only appear in specific places but I’m wondering if we can go beyond that.
Fortunately, there are people like Matthew Plummer-Fernández, Nina Chanel Abney, Studio Olaf Eliasson, and others, that are pushing the boundaries of the phygital and trying to counter the narrative of AR as a rosy layer of escapism to the virtual world while we watch the ‘real’ world burn.