Liepaja based media and sound art association ASTE has started developing an augmented reality art application. The project is being developed with the support of the State Culture Capital Fund’s program “KultūrELPA”.

Why augmented reality?

Augmented reality is neither new nor unique, but at the same time, like almost all contemporary technology, is known and relevant only to a small group of people – young people, those interested in / working with technology, new media and interdisciplinary art and technology students, who have been enticed by an enthusiastic teacher to go see the works of augmented reality or to develop an augmented reality project themselves. The augmented reality can be seen also in class trips to science and technology museums and exhibitions.

The name “augmented reality” originated in 1990[1] (virtual reality – 1989). The dream of augmented reality is to offer people to augment their mind, (sensory) perception, to give them access to information in real time.

Examples of augmented reality available daily would be audio guides in exhibitions, animated paintings, tourism applications that offer information about buildings and places. An undeveloped field in Latvia, but what already exists are marketing and shopping apps that offer information about, for example, how environmentally friendly a product is (cosmetics, cleaning products). Plant and mushroom recognition applications are available to users. Another example could be until recently quite popular augmented reality game Pokémon Go.

In a way, a smartphone has some augmented reality function. At least in my life, many conversations include fact-checking. I do not believe in anyone who offer me specific information. Of course, not all topics of conversation interest me to such an extent that I devote energy to fact-checking. Smartphone and the internet have become part of my daily life; I assume I know everything I can find fast enough on the phone / internet. Communication is just one small part of having a smartphone.

Why augmented reality art?

Digital artwork is quite democratic. By that I mean that a digital work of art could be viewed, listened to, experienced on almost any digital device. A digital work of art, if it is not a work of virtual reality that requires special equipment, is more accessible than a sculpture, installation, a piece of visual art.

The artist is a curator, internet, and social networks – a freely available museum, gallery.

Many digital works of art are made for “fast” consumption; that is, the way they are exhibited and viewed on Instagram, Facebook, they do not claim to be discussed in art magazines, they do not expect to be interpreted in art history. The target audience of these works of art is like-minded communities, enthusiasts, casual spectators (friends, acquaintances). Even if they visually and conceptually try to transcend some boundaries, try to experiment with technique, material, aesthetics (which, however, they rarely do), people will not spend their time searching for them; people see digital artworks by accident – seeing a 3D visual work, illustrations in the Facebook news section between news, pictures of acquaintance on a vacation, pictures of flowers, children, and pets).

We are inviting all artists and creative people from any field to offer their original works of art to be exhibited in the augmented reality art application. We hope to receive applications from amateur and professional groups, creative associations, traditional artists. We will help convert physical works of art into digital forms so that they can be exhibited online.

The curators will seek out and invite digital and traditional artists to participate in the project to create a real mixture of different art fields, allowing the viewer to experience all kinds of contemporary artworks. And it will be a challenge for digital artists to offer their artworks to a harder-to-reach audience – people who do not follow them on social media.

I hope that the platform we will be creating will reduce the gap that exists between people of different generations and people from different fields of art. I hope that the artists will take up the challenge of exhibiting their works in new ways.


[1] https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/augmented-reality-the-past-the-present-and-the-future