DM7917 Summer Emerging media project portfolio outcome

“A work of art doesn’t have to be explained.....If you do not have any feeling about this,
I cannot explain it to you.
If this doesn’t touch you,
I have failed”.


Louise Bourgeois

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Brief review of the projects and outcomes undertaken

An investigation into participation with augmented reality art, through the creation of an AR art display. The project is based upon the idea that AR art can still be reverent to the viewing of creative pieces, with an AR app/ interface an audience could engage with art and its meaning outside of a gallery situation not be diminished.

I have undertaken  research into several different apps and programmes in order to find the results required for an AR art piece. I took a trial of the 3D suite of new Adobe substance apps to allow me (an Apple users) greater and easier flexibility to make my artwork 3D. I was able to apply texture lighting and surroundings to a form with just a drag and drop approach. The UI was similar to other 3D software applications and was familiar. The Substance Stager gave quick results.

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Early stages of development saw me using Adobe Aero to prototype my floating rocks.

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The biggest area of exploration was to enable a 3D scanned object to work in android and IOS.I experimented with creating my rock in Blender.

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Vuforia and Unity were used to create a ground plan target and Vuforia Object Scanner app on an android phone to map the 3D stones.  The object scanner applies the mesh over the object to map its surface and enable me to gather the data into an OB (object file).


The Area Target Generator (ATG) is a desktop application that allows you to convert a 3D scan of an environment into a Vuforia Engine dataset. This dataset can be used as Area Target in a Vuforia application to recognize a specific environment and to augment it with information placed in 3D.

I painted image targets (see blow) for each of the 3d mapped stones. This is the method for audience interaction. I have shown my ‘pebble’ art work in a recent exhibition held with Hampshire Artists Cooperative I have been able to see the whole process from motivation to purchase and what consumers expect. Augmented reality was not part of their expectations.


A technical issue that I  was unable to resolve that meant I required a  different SDK as the Vuforia Object Scanner only works on an android phone for scanning, but the output objects could be for IOS too.  I had to abandon the work in Vuforia as I have been unable to interrogate why it has happened. 


It does highlight the need for the software developed for AR and VR to have a clear pathway. I decided to use the Vuforia platform as I had experience from a previous module on the MA course.


This led me to investigate more apps on the Apple store for 3D scanning capabilities. Some of the apps were not able to capture a 3D model at all, the more successful versions were free to use but to get the obj file from them they were subscription.

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Capture by Standard Cyborg looked exciting initially, but it became very quickly unusable. the front facing camera facility can only be used by iPhone 12+ pro, I have an iPhone 12 (not good enough) so I had to use the backwards facing camera to try and see and scan the rocks I wanted…. it was very unsatisfactory.

Qlone 3D app - enabled me to extract the .obj files I required so I could have proof of concept. The Qlone application uses both a scanning mat and with the premium version a free form scan function. The speed of the image capture was much better than the android version. I also got the opportunity to turn the object over and scan the underside too, the software made an excellent job of knitting the two scenes together seamlessly.


Below is the 3D scan and the original stone side by side... I think the software did a great job in production.

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Design Research 


Through a survey of rural galleries I wanted to find out how they view augmented reality art. 

My investigation wanted to understand the motivation of an audience to engage, and what were the barriers for  them to engage, and the provincial angle too  a lot of the AR interaction seems to happen in the big cities.


My project was born out of the desire most of us have when we are on a beach to pick up a pebble, a specific pebble too we walk past thousand but some call to us more than others... I have explored what drives this nature and what has our human experience been with stones and art.

What does art do? 

Our gaze on a picture, sculpture, video work has predetermined assumptions about civilization, taste, status, beauty and truth etc… When we look back on a painting from the 16th century from our position in the 21st century our assumptions do not match, a junction of meaning occurs. In his essay ‘Ways of Seeing’ 1972 John Berger illustrated the point of the gap between words and seeing by using René Magritte as an example, his work ‘La Clef des songes’ (The Interpretation of Dreams) 1935. 

By highlighting this shift and that the human gaze is in the here and now, our expectations of viewing art in new and emerging media, means that we cannot use the old styles and that we need to experiment to find new creative and artistic languages.


Working with virtual and augmented reality the new narrative, allows for the emotion of the viewer/audience to work with the concepts in front of them. 


The art project is fuelled by desire and emotion of picking up a pebble and placing it down, handling it and the simple interactive story allows
the viewer to take something way from the art they are encountering. 


The purpose of AR art in order to elevate it from the ordinary the work should be meaningful, making the audience engage and not just dismiss the AR as a game.

Human motivation to create and select objects for a moment we find more interesting than another we can look at needs motivation with Abraham Maslow and his Theory of Needs (1940) (Appendix 1). From Maslow’s work David McClelland in1961 wrote ‘The Achieving Society’, where he outline his Human Motivation Theory - people have different characteristics depending on their dominant motivator.


James Brunt’s work (opposite) had a huge impact on me thinking about the randomness of stones. The Fibonacci sequence and formation of natural order, is something perhaps the human mind craves and sets out to achieve with every stone it collects...

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Stone sculptural forms have been found as early as 32,000 BC they show our human connection with the material our aims to conquer and control it. 


The ‘Venus’ figurine is a portable art object that has been found in Upper Palaeolithic sites throughout Eurasia. The figures date from up to 27 000 years ago and typically around 10 cm tall. They appear to be a caricature of a woman, well-fed and possibly pregnant, a symbol of fertility, to be held, cherished with purpose.

The Venus is a motivated stone object imbued with meaning from the sculptor, the sculptor had to select the rock to use to create the Venus. Perhaps when we pick up a pebble on a beach we have retained this raw connection to creation, to feel and to escape through that creativity.

Emptying our mind, walking along a beach, eradicating other thoughts, the space and texture of the beach itself becomes important. In lockdown there was a strong desire to be by the sea, to feel that sense of space. The sea is not for everyone, but picking a flower, a leaf from the forest floor, or a stick to throw into the stream have the same motivation, self selection of the item we find extraordinary - art also allows us this choice to stop and ponder. 


To engage an audience in this project to seek out motivations in those interacting/viewing, for the art to delivering a feeling or a thought, to touch that personal experience is going to be a difficult.


“A work of art doesn’t have to be explained.....If you do not have any feeling about this, I cannot explain it to you. If this doesn’t touch you, I have failed”.  Louise Bourgeois (3)

Role of the gallery in the development and acceptance of augmented reality art

New artists expressions have occurred throughout the history of art, the development of artistic practice to the digital space we have today must have echoed into the history of each new wave of art produced.

Kinetic art from the 1950-60’s explored movement and time in order to reflect the importance of the machine see opposite. Also, in the 1960’s the rise of Op art geometric forms utilising colour theory and psychology of perception were exhibited by the TATE at that time.

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The TATE, a public institution has had the ability to enjoy the playfulness of exposing new art forms - spending public money and private benefactors gifts, saving and deciding what is good and what is not. In 2021 Investment from the TATE into two forthcoming AR environments in TATE St Ives by James,  shows that they are leading the way. The first AR environment on show is ‘The Inclusive Isolationist Society at the Island of Strange Events’ and the second ‘The Fiery Foraging Warriors’ . Use of smartphone app, the immersive experience reveals itself.

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My research has focussed on finding the artists who have brought their work from the physical 2D space into a 3D and AR arena. 


This crossover point into AR I discovered an artists who was an early adopter of the new forms in 2013. John Craig Freeman and Will Pappenheimer coined the term: “app-arition” for their work in AR on SFMOMA AR exhibition, 2013. 

John Craig Freeman’s early work ‘Dominion Is’ (1994), shows his AR ambitions with his disturbance art out of place works with social commentary and societal fears. Finding some of his early work is difficult because the AR apps used on mobile devices now no longer recognise the QR codes set up, the access is lost forever… making the art unobtainable (flotsam and jetsam Hong Kong 2013)

The recent Alice in wonderland exhibition at the V&A (2021). Tom Hingston regards augmented reality art in the museum context will have to be “more ambitious in their (galleries) immersive qualities and if they’re not that, then they will probably only exist in a virtual space”.

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This really adds to the conversation about what is the museum and national art gallery for? If they do not encourage engagement, they will no longer exist, perhaps their metalife is already in motion.

Hampshire gallery survey


The survey six provincial galleries – outside of London, to see if their experience with AR art was having an impact on them?


The acceptance of AR in the gallery situation was touched upon with my survey of local galleries in my area, and beyond. (See Appendix 3 for full results).


To summarise the findings the motivation for visiting a gallery are: 

National & historic significant art, quality and variety, different visual scenarios from local and international talents, to spend time with family, enjoy the atmosphere and its reputation and culture.


The main stock of these galleries are: 

Familiar artistic names, paintings & ceramics, specified contemporary and emerging artists. 

There is an obvious split in motivation for art in these galleries, those who are earning a living by representing artists, and those public institutions and galleries who are governed by an ethic of preservation and education. The gallery owners who sell art as a business, seem to represent traditional forms of artistic expression. Those galleries that are public institutions or funded by The Arts Council have a wider remit and diverse range not driven by selling on, but by widening understanding.


The purchase of art from the local galleries shows that the demographic starts with the tail end of the Baby Boomer Generation and those in Generation X. The motivational chart from Pew research Centre USA 215 (Appendix 2 ) shows the generational categories and how their influence on wider societal issues could be a factor in their involvement in technology (or lack of) and art.

Respondent 4 from the gallery survey upholds the view of my initial research that the acceptance of AR artwork and the validation of the digital forms themselves:


“I believe digital art forms are a fantastic platform to decolonise and broaden the audiences of the contemporary arts. However, I believe the ways in which most art galleries and analogue artistic platforms use digital art forms are often cosmetic, superficial and misguided. Often digital art forms are thought of as a means of support to analogue art, rather than an art form, theory and community in its own right. NFTs are a shred of solid evidence that new markets are being created in digital platforms for digitally oriented audiences.” Survey monkey gallery contributor Oct 21

(See Appendix 3)


50% of the galleries surveyed said that their visitor would not be interested in AR/VR. 

17% said that their visitors would buy digital art. And those who didn’t answer, offered some insight by saying that their visitors are interested in VR and AR but they do not have the data to know who would be interested. 


Respondent 6 has the final say on the survey:

“Regional… (public) art galleries… don’t have the budgets to invest like the Nationals do and I’m sure aren’t confident on the return for any investment they could make. It’s risky, especially when budgets continue to be cut or jeopardised by national emergencies. Buying software and hardware is impossible when things change so rapidly. We are all on-board to embrace it, we just need a partner to help deliver.” Survey monkey gallery contributor Oct 21 (See Appendix 3)

I was able to attend an online symposium about Rethinking the museum, the panel discussed the question:
How do you use VR and AI in the institutions?

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These were the answers to that particular question:

  • No institution has the financial ability to fund these projects currently.

  • Lockdown made our presentations develop into the digital space.

  • AR is seen as a tool, not necessarily as an art form.

  • Not being used in a meaning full way - finance is a blocking point. Not seen as a priority.


As you can see, not all international institutions are on the same page. They see AR as a trick a device to be used for audience engagement not as an art form itself. The financial backing and philanthropy is required to enable digital artists to create meaningful work and earn a living by way of exclusivity and the museum model embracing the art form as one to be curated.


I think both the symposium and the regional gallery survey show that there is more to discover the stumbling blocks of how art and economics and culture can come together.

How is computer art viewed in our societies? 


How is it valued? Is it seen as a disposable format so has no value?

Creation of original digital content can take as long as a painting or sculpture; planning, practice, skills, education and opportunity all play a part in the digitised art we are exposed to. The role of art and culture, is to help us make sense of our world and this will be the case of technological advancement, we will design interfaces to enable others to enjoy experiences, and not to be left behind. 


“There will be hundreds of millions of phones that will be AR ready. And the current stage is … we are helping developers … build the experiences … so that it becomes a daily habit. And once it does, I suspect the natural evolution of monetization comes through..... Augmented reality (will become) a core feature…” — Amit Singh (10)


The futurist Ray Kurzweil debates the ethics surrounding computer control and involvement in an artistic process a timeline heading towards a ‘technological singularity’ (Kurzweil) His predictions in 2010 of how we will shape and view art has an enevitability about his predictions. (11)

NFTs (non fungible tokens) and the role of validating and making digital works to have ‘worth’ seems to be central to the issues with getting the AR art to the public.


Instead of owning a static .jpeg or (animated) .gif that will end up on your hard disk or in your private cloud, why not consider buying an #augmentedreality NFT you can actually use and ‘wear’? Thereby showcasing your purchase and promoting it, if you consider a resale. 


AR effects residing on public platforms for anyone to see and access causes and issue for this idea. Sander Veenhof (12) uses an unlock pattern mechanism and dynamically generated codes, so you can become the unique owner of a unique piece of AR content. (see below)

“Augmented Reality is a new Form of Art, but it is Anti-Art. It is Primitive, which amplifies its Viral Potency. It is Bad Painting challenging the definition of Good Painting. It shows up in the Wrong Places. It Takes the Stage without permission. It is Relational Conceptual Art that Self-Actualizes”.

Manefesto from Manifest.AR art group. (13)

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Tamiko Thiel enhanced the installation with augmented reality (AR) overlays. These virtual artworks, visible through an iPad mounted on a rotatable pedestal, enclosed visitors between veils of “real” and “virtual” calligraphy to incorporate them into a total installation.

Development of ideas 


Because the project was based on the creation of a painting and taking it to another level with Augmented reality, I decided to keep a journal.

Throughout my process I have kept a blog, where more thoughts and research reside:

See also, Pinterest :


Canvas pebble studies on display at Hampshire Artists Cooperative exhibition. Project Engagement 1: The aim was for the AR interaction to focus on 3D shapes – Pebbles, acting and reacting in the space.

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No stone unturned... proof of concept

Project Engagement 2:

Explore AR with landscape paintings, they could appear using an image target. 


As part of my research, and as an extension to the project I would have liked to have free floating stones available for people to build human monoliths to represent themselves. Leaving behind an AR self, immortalised in stone.

This is an image of a newly developed site in my town of Andover, where they hope to engage people with artistic and community based ideas... this is where the interaction for the Engagement project would have been Watermills Walk.

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This project has allowed me to dive deeper into the AR space. Discovering the problematic production of art on platforms, funding for AR art to a society not ready for it, I feel that this is the start of a new artistic revolution. I agree with the Manefest.AR group that augmented reality art is an “Additive Acccess Movement” “Many artists lament the perennial headache of getting AR apps approved through Apple’s or Google Play’s app store review process, or a new face filter approved by Facebook/Instagram’s Spark AR Studio. In a way, these obstacles are a meta-AR layer, reminding us that we are currently trapped in highly controlled, for-profit digital spaces.” quote from


The collaborative elements to my project have been surveying gallery and art museums and using there insight to uphold some of my own findings about AR art. I exhibit collaboratively with Hampshire Artists Cooperative, which has given me and insight into the sales part of the art process and to see first hand how people are touched by the art they by and their own motivations for that,


For the time I have had to research and build the components - I feel that as a large scale project it would have benefited from a large collaborative team. Agile working when you are client and product owner I have found has not been fully successful.

The content of this webpage is for my MA course in Digital Media Practice. All references can be found in the buttons at the top of the page. All design work is my own unless otherwise stated. October 2021

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