Be Smart About Art

From Virtual to Augmented Reality, How Do You Stay in the Know?

written by: Susan Mumford June 11, 2017 Sunday blog - The art world in bite-sized stories 777 views

From Virtual to Augmented Reality, How Do You Stay in the Know?

from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here

What's the first thing that pops into your head when you see the above photograph, depicting the author wearing a techno-contraption in a bright white room?

Whereas some readers might think, "Susan has travelled to a future age" or "Susan has joined a SpaceX flight crew" others will recognise the Virtual Reality (aka VR) headset.

The photograph was taken in late spring 2017 and inside an experiential art piece presented as part of the Photo London art fair. The installation is called 'Thresholds,' in which artist Mat Collishaw takes participants back to 1839, in an early photographic exhibition where William Henry Fox Talbot's prints were on display. (The reality presented by the hedseat was a Victorian room with prints on view in display cases, with the occasional mouse scurrying along the floor). Think about it this way: Mat Collishaw is using an emerging form of technology to recreate a scene in which people experienced, approximately 160 years ago, a former emerging technology, the photographic process. How meta.

A striking observation about technological developments across the board, whether in 1839 or 2017, is how early adopters are not only scientists and engineers, but also artists and creative folks. Much like photography is used for documentation in crime scenes and as an artistic medium alike, iPads are used to send work emails and create digital drawings. The list goes on. And yet, the digital world is moving so fast that many are understandably challenged to keep up.

So what can be done to at least stay in the know as to new developments?  

Make a conscious effort to keep informed. It's worth several minutes of your time to read articles and watch videos presenting developing technology, and if you're unsure as to the credibility of a website or a journal, fact-check using two sites recommended by this blog's photographer, Chris King:

Arstechnica (www.arstechnica.com / www.arstechnica.co.uk)

New Scientist (www.newscientist.com)

Although an installation such as Mat Collishaw's might seem unreachable, presented at museum scale and having received an incredible amount of funding, many artists are already working with VR on smaller scales. I saw this at the Chelsea College of Art (London) two years ago, and today you can it at New York-based Transfer Gallery. The latter was founded by Kelani Nichole, who coordinates a program presenting works by artists who have computer-based practices.

The future has arrived, and I encourage you to have a mindset of continual learning, to stay in the know. When someone mentions VR or AR, or whatever comes next, you'll be able to actively participate - and who knows, such developments might directly or indirectly your own experiences, from creative expression to day to day life. 

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