Now you see the art. You’re not now

On a hot June afternoon, Emma Enderby, Chief Curator the shed, and Cecilia Alemani, Director and Chief Curator high line art, walked side by side among their respective bailiwicks on Manhattan’s West Side, plotting the configuration of their first collaborative exhibition.

They were delighted.

“No night is established,” said Alemani. “No crane. That’s the best.”

Nothing will be decided until just before the inauguration. “We didn’t have to think about engineering or load weights,” Enderby said. “You can spend a leisurely day just keeping them.”

The exhibit, “The Looking Glass”, which runs from Saturday through August 29, is a show in which all “they” – sculptures on view – are virtual, exist only in augmented reality, or AR.

Using an app developed by Acute Art, a London-based digital-art organisation, a viewer can point a phone at a QR code displayed on a site – where a virtual artwork is “hidden”. The code activates a specific sculpture that appears on the viewer’s camera screen, superimposed on the surroundings. (Unlike virtual reality, or VR, in which a viewer wears a device, such as glasses, AR does not require full immersion.) Most virtual art is performed on the plaza surrounding the Shed, on 11th Avenue on West 30th Street. will be kept. , complemented by three locations on the nearby High Line.

Acute Art is overseen by the third curator of the exhibition, Daniel Birnbaum, Who, because of the pandemic, could only attend from afar. “The Looking Glass” is an updated and expanded iteration of another acute art show, “Unreal City”, which opened on London’s South Bank last year and then, in the face of new lockdown precautions, reunited for a month at home started. Edition. A teaser with three of the “The Looking Glass” cast was presented last month at the Shed in Freeze New York.

“There’s something fascinating about it being secret or not being completely visible,” Birnbaum said in a phone interview. “It’s a completely invisible show until you start talking about it.”

If “The Looking Glass” duplicates pokemon go sensation In 2016-2017, discovery will be as exciting as discovery. While the title of the London iteration alludes to TS Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land” in New York, the show gets its name from Lewis Carroll. “In today’s ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ the phone is the new rabbit hole,” Enderby said.

Birnbaum, a respected curator who was director of the Modern Musket in Stockholm for eight years before leaving to run Acute Art, listed the participation of 11 artists including household names – Olafur Eliasson and cos —and such art-world favorites as precious okyomon, winner of the 2021 Frieze Artist Award, Cao Fei, Nina Chanel Abani, koo jeong a and Julie Curtis. Some of his works unfold over time and incorporate sound, while others are as irreverent as traditional sculptures.

Freed from the plinth, they can derive new meaning from their unconventional contexts. Ebony’s piece, “Imaginary Friend,” is a hovering, bearded black man in high-top sneakers and banded crew socks, reading a book, with a halo around his head. “It’s a black Jesus, I guess,” Birnbaum said. He observed that it would have a different effect if it appeared in Washington’s political performance rather than the High Line.

Eliasson, whose “Rainbow” in 2017 One was the pioneering virtual-reality artwork, which contributed a group of five pieces from the series collectively titled “Wondercamera”: a buzzing ladybug, a floating rock, a cloud, a sun and a clump of flowers that sweep through the sidewalk. pushes up.

“Often, these digital platforms are presented to us as if they are the opposite of reality, but I saw it as an extension of reality,” he said in a phone interview. “I’m a very conformist artist, interested in mixing mind and body, and my first thought is, ‘This is moving your body.’ It feels like escapism and is open to hedonism.” Upon reflection, however, he concluded that since people are tied to their phones, their goal would be to reach them via the device rather than “numbing” are “sensitive”.

“Maybe we can get a message in the phone that the world is wonderful,” he said. “What I hope to achieve is what’s left of a public place—and the High Line is such a good example—imaginary, unexpected encounters, the possibility of meeting someone you didn’t expect to know and becoming friends with.” I think it’s about multiplicity in public space and connecting other stories.”

Thomas Saraceno, the Argentine artist based in Berlin who worked in Eliasson’s studio early in his career, is even more determined to mix augmented reality with real life. Plagued by ecological concerns, Saraceno is particularly obsessed with spiders, and has founded a research organization, Arachnophilia, to study them and the architecture of their webs.

For “The Looking Glass” he created two virtual spiders. One, which will be on the plaza of the shed, is the entertainment of the magnificent Marat beautiful; Known as the Australian Coastal Peacock Spider. The other will take place in a secret location in Manhattan. If you send a picture of a real spider to the Acute Art app, the team will respond with the location of the other virtual spider, which will also be transportable to your home. “It’s at the heart of the whole thing,” Birnbaum said. “He likes the look of an AR spider, but he cares more about it than you pay attention to real spiders.”

For other artists, the possibilities of augmented reality allow for different approaches to their long-term artistic investigation. Curtis, a French artist living in Brooklyn, paints and sculpts nude women. “My job is all about seeing, and what I’m choosing to reveal and what I’m choosing to hide,” she said in a phone interview. Introduced to Birnbaum by Brian Donnelly, better known as KAWS, Curtis was excited by the opportunity to pursue the subject in a way that had previously been unavailable to him.

In mid-June, she was still working with computer coders at Acute Art to develop her piece: a nude woman with long dark hair – one of the characters presented in the pictures – that would be placed in the environment. . facing model. “She’ll keep dodging when you try to go around her, so you never see her in front of you,” Curtis said. “And when you get too close, you go through it. That naked woman is exposed and vulnerable, but at the same time, like a wall, she is protected. It is playing with these opposites.”

After the pandemic, Birnbaum suggested, the popularity of virtual representation could accelerate. “Can they ever do a fashion show again?” he said. “Will people travel? I see this as possibly another model for exhibitions. I could imagine that AR and VR and mixed-reality thing would be part of the art world of the global and local future. I’d be surprised if the art world hasn’t changed a bit since. We may be a little quicker.”

Although Acute Art is not a profit-maker at this point, its financial backers, the wealthy Swedish businessman Gerard de Geer and his son Jacob, are aware of the business possibilities. Acute Art has already created virtual pieces for Chanel and BMW, and is exploring ways to release the work in volumes. “We haven’t really monetized things,” Birnbaum said. but he allowed Unexpected NFT Craze And blockchain purchases have sparked talk of financial opportunities among some artists.

One thing seems certain: virtual and augmented reality are still in their artistic infancy. Acute Art acts as a technical guru, providing computer coders and engineers to bring artists’ virtual creations into existence. “There’s a little storyboard written, then we do a trial version, and they’ll come back and say, ‘The texture is too small,’ and, ‘It should be more red,'” Birnbaum said. “They get a test app, and they can play with it and have it.”

“I’m interested to see what we can do with this technology,” he continued. “Once there was photography and everyone thought it would kill painting. Then cinema and video cameras and the Internet came along. In our own time, AR and VR are the new media. There is a period before its commercialization when one can do experimental things. We are there now.”

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