How has the COVID-19 quarantine impacted your ability to continue to work with your team?
Right now I'm in between projects. However, the answer would probably be yes and no. My developer is in Boston (Cuseum) and over the last few years we've gotten used to working remotely. But in the case of my work, it's very site specific and usually requires several visits to calibrate the artwork just right. Recently, I've completed a project at Miami International Airport (IM|Movable Assets organized by Miami International Airport's Fine Arts & Cultural Affairs and Pérez Art Museum Miami) and obviously that would be impacted if it were not complete. My approach to AR has always been to transit between the virtual and the actual. Thus, I can do a lot of creative and production work on my computer. But the success of the project has always hinged on it's existing in the real world in specific ways. In the past I've utilized AR to comment on or speculate within existing ecologies, rather than be exportable. Usually it's a creative dialogue between myself, the developer and the institution (commissioning body) that is hosting the work. The institution is that third piece of the triangle/team that would be impacted the most based on our current situation. Yet for me personally, the institution is what has grounded the work into a real context to suggest an augmentation of reality.
Has the disruption sparked new ideas or different creative interests?
Yes of course. I've approached AR in my work as a speculative tool where I can model alternative narratives or scenarios. Mostly, I've addressed issues of climate change and how the future might look within a particular site or situation, ie. a museum, an airport, a beach, a tropical historical site. Because AR is able to postulate new modalities, I wonder if we can connect people in different ways. Social distancing has led me to think about this new reality, but also to question how this will effect us moving forward. Humans will always need to connect with each other in some way. I'm an advocate of the physical world and our senses: sight, hearing, smell taste and touch. I wonder if technology could bring us closer together in a more visceral way than it currently does, even if we're not in the same location? Alternately, I wonder how a technology such as AR could suggest new ways of living and improving our quality of life? Could it be used to model a better future like science fiction can (confession: I was always a Star Trek fan)?
Do you believe there’s space for augmented reality to complement exhibitions and democratize access to the arts?
I do. When I was commissioned to do my first AR exhibition, Invasive Species at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, we were intent on democratizing as much as the exhibition as possible. Curator Jennifer Inacio, Project Manager Monica Mesa and Deputy Director of Marketing & Public Engagement Christina Boomer Vasquez formed a team that produced the first AR only exhibition in the United States. When we began the process of exploring both the medium and the content of the exhibition, we all agreed that we wanted as many people to have access as possible. The museum upgraded their public WiFi system on the exterior of the building to facilitate this. In doing so, three out of four of the artworks were accessible (through the PAMM app) without even entering the museum. In terms of complementing exhibitions, I do know that there are artist's who work with AR as another layer to analog artworks. My first time doing that was with IM|Movable Assets, where we had murals (including a Jeff VanderMeer quote pictured below) and a video (by my colleague AdrienneRose Gionta). Yet one aspect does not necessarily complement the other in my opinion. The way I work, analog and digital are read as seamless. They rely equally on each other.
Are there any impossible projects you love and have not yet been able to see created?
I was asked recently to come up with a project in which if I could anything, what would it be? I'm in the midst of thinking about that...can I get back to you? Seriously though, I love creating large scale immersive AR works. I think that creating that type of scale are for me both challenging from a technical standpoint, but rewarding. My background is in architecture, so for me AR is about moving though space, as much as it is about aesthetics. For example, I would love to create an experience on the water where you would have to use a boat to in order to traverse it. On the other hand, I'm also interested in exploring how AR can be used at home in a more intimate yet connective way.
Finally, is there any advice you would give to the younger creatives and those who have been hit hardest by the repercussions of the COVID-19?
First, take care of yourself. I'm realizing that self care and self love are primary concerns, especially now. I didn't realize before this happened how much I ran around and juggled (too) many things. Now, I can reflect more about what's important. Second, show your love for others, your family, your friends, your community. We must support one another, now and hopefully, even when things are better. In the case of artists, both young and old, I saw a social media post that said something to the effect that with social distancing, what would our lives be like without art, music, poetry? It made me realize that we can make a difference and that it's ok to be creative at this time.