Augmented Reality and Public Space

Tamiko Thiel

March 10th 2021
10h-12h EST
online webinar 
PULSE co-hosts with the research group CINEMAexpo67, directed by Dr Monika Kin Gagnon, Concordia Department of Communications

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Who gets to tell the stories? Who is allowed to define, memorialize and occupy public space? Physical urban monuments and the histories they tell - even if just a tiny, barely visible plaque - are subject to lengthy and costly submissions to city authorities. Humans have been augmenting public space since time immemorial, from the very first time one person told a story to another about a particular place. Augmented reality frees public space - and visible parts of private space - to anyone determined to get their story heard. Tamiko will show examples of her own AR artworks as well as from other urban AR artists to reclaim public space for a larger, more inclusive public.

Tamiko Thiel was awarded the 2018 Visionary Pioneer Award by the Society for Art and Technology Montreal for her (now over 35) years of media artworks exploring the interplay of place, space, the body and cultural identity in political and socially critical artworks. She was lead product designer on the "Connection Machine CM1/CM2“ AI supercomputer, in 1989 the fastest computer on earth, now in the collection of MoMA NY. She began working with virtual reality in 1994 as producer and creative director of "Starbright World" (1994-‘97), the first online 3D virtual world for children, in collaboration with Steven Spielberg. Her first VR art installation "Beyond Manzanar" (2000) is in the collection of the San Jose Museum of Art, and her work as GoogleVR Tilt Brush artist in residence, Land of Cloud (2017), won the 2018 VRHAM VR Festival Hamburg Audience Award.

 

She began working with augmented reality (AR) in 2010, showing her AR installation “ARt Critic Face Matrix” as part of a path-breaking AR intervention into MoMA NY. In 2011 she curated and organized an AR intervention into the 2011 Venice Biennial for her artists group Manifest.AR, including her own work “Shades of Absence.” Her AR commissions since then include “Unexpected Growth” for the Whitney Museum NY, where it is now in the permanent collection.

 

Many of her AR installations have been urban interventions into the public sphere and address issues such as pollution in the hidden river running through an expensive part of Brooklyn in “Newtown Creek (oil spill)” (2011), to meditating on the past, present and future of a Munich neighborhood in “Transformation: Lehel“ (2012), to covering downtown Liverpool, UK with wild growth in “Biomer Skelters“ (2013), and mapping the history of four generations of her Japanese American family in a city-wide project in Seattle with “Brush the Sky” (2015). Tamiko is an AR artistic advisor on numerous projects that map histories of minority communities including the Rockefeller Foundation grant for the Caribbean Cultural Center and African Diaspora Institute to create “Mi Querido Barrio“ (2016) in the East Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, and more recently on the Hidden Histories of San Jose Japantown project in San Jose, California.