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Augmented Reality Art in Public Space

artist talk with Tamiko Thiel

March 10th 2021
10am-12pm EST
, online webinar 

PULSE co-hosts with the research group CINEMAexpo67, directed by Dr Monika Kin Gagnon, Concordia Department of Communications



"Reign of Gold" AR installation, for AR Occupy Wall Street Project. Tamiko Thiel © 2011 

This talk will be followed by a moderated Q&A co-hosted by PULSE (@performative_urbanism) and CINEMAexpo67.

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.

The Blue Hour VR
with Paul Cegys

artist talk on digital
January 20th, 16-18h
@4th Space Concordia
1400 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

This event is wheelchair accessible.

Screen Shot 2020-01-06 at 5.11.20 PM.png

Photo credit: Tomáš Brabec, Jan Hromadko, David Kumermann

The Blue Hour VR experience, created by Paul Cegys and Joris Weijdom, as part of the 36Qº at the 2019 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space, is an innovative and formative example of a site-responsive mixed reality (MR) performance design, which blurs the boundaries between performance, spectatorship, and real and virtual environments. Piloting interactive virtual-reality (VR) technology and hybrid environments that blend 360º cinematography and real-time 3D graphics, Blue Hour VR drew new lines of experience for participants, placing them at the centre of a performance experience, thereby expanding our understanding of scenographic dramaturgies that exist inside, outside and in-between realities. Its artistic impetus was rooted in a social one, asking what it means to be ‘present’ in relationship to different shifting ecological spaces and the consequences of the anthropocene.


Blue Hour VR experience explicitly focused on the interweave between different modes of sensing within the experiencer’s physical body through the blending of real and virtual environments. This radically (re)positioned the body of the experiencer at the locus of performance, duplicating her in two places at the same time (real and virtual), thereby (dis)connecting and (re)mediating social relationships. In doing so the mixed-reality performance design of the Blue Hour VR experience questions the very ontology of performance.

Paul Cegys’ work merges multiple practices of performance creation and design, from theatre and opera to site-specific installation and intermedial mixed-reality scenographies. He has worked abroad in Italy, Finland, Czech Republic, India, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Poland, Lithuania, and the United States. He has worked for La Monnaie/De Munt (Royal Belgian Opera), Canadian Opera Company, CanStage, Soulpepper Theatre Company, and Opera Hamilton. Upholding his commitment to ecological imperatives he merges his artistic work with his sustainability practice (MSc. in Sustainability Science and Environmental Studies, Lunds University, Sweden). Cegys is the Co-Creator of Blue Hour VR, a site-responsive mixed-reality performance event which premiered at the 2019 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design. He is the Co-Creator of Individuality and Interconnection, a 360º video project that maps the creative spaces of Canadian performance designers and he is the Digital Scenographer for The Home, a VR experience designed for the Digital Oral Histories for Reconciliation project funded by SSHRC and in partnership with Oculus VR. He is a Lecturer in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Waterloo, and serves on the advisory board of the Toasterlab Mixed Reality Performance Atelier. He is currently a PhD candidate at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture at Aalto University in Finland.

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