Melbourne’s augmented reality: is public art the cure for the city’s pandemic unrest? | Art

Pgaris has its Latin Quarter and Barcelona its Gothic Quarter, but who knew Melbourne had a Flinders Quarter? From Flinders Street to Collins, down Elizabeth and Swanston, it runs along some of the city’s most famous thoroughfares, including Degraves and Center Place streets. The origin of the name is debated (perhaps it occurred or not when the area was dominated by the cloth trade), but it appealed to the organizers of the Flinders Quarter Augmented Arts Walk.

Many cities have self-directed cultural tours, but the key difference here lies in this word “increased”. A close cousin of virtual reality, augmented reality (RA) is a way to enhance a physical object (for example, a piece of art) with digital elements that are accessed through technology, in this case a smartphone · Ligent. All participants have to do is download a free app called EyeJack, point it to the art, and see how the work transforms on the screen.

Technology that interacts with public space is a relatively recent phenomenon, so it’s comforting to discover how easy it is to use. The app is intuitive and simply keeping your phone in front of the art unlocks the sound and visual effects. Another question is how the works respond to imposition. Green and Red and Sacy Beyer’s Portal Glitch, by Tracy Sarroff, seem to depend on technology in a bright and bold way, as if the true meaning of the works could only be fully accessed through the digital transformations of the app. These are perhaps at the forefront of technology, and it is interesting that both are concerned with the basic structures: the basic components of being and the ways in which they can be transformed by external influences.

Audience members keep their smartphones to access the augmented reality elements of Sue Beyer’s Portal Glitch. Photo: Flinders Quarter Augmented Art Walk

There are 12 pieces that make up the ride and while they are all “augmented”, only a few are really improved. Some seem pretty naively tied to their magnifications, or video and sound haven’t responded to art in a meaningful way. Carla Gottgens’s The Guardians and United Make’s A Touch of Climate are likeable where they can be provocative, and the rotating clocks and baroque clamor that accompany Anton Hasell’s complex and complex, The Parallax of Time, are simply obvious. The best works in the series are those that stand alone: ​​as much as a great admirable art for a passerby, but also invigorated by new technology: The Duchess and the Butterfly II by Ann Ryan and Jingwen (Jina) He’s You Can Find Something Really important in a particular ordinary minute. These are works that speak directly of renewal and transmutation.

More generally, the project raises some questions about what role art plays or should play in a post-pandemic world. More than the art commissioned by itself, the walk was conceived primarily as a business support initiative: the project is an idea of ​​Rail Projects Victoria (RPV), the agency that supplies the subway tunnel. It might seem like an unlikely partnership, a major works organization joining a gang of visual artists, but anyone who has recently participated in the Melbourne CBD will know they desperately need a renaissance.

The initiative began with an inaugural art walk in 2019, when the only threat to the city’s cultural life was the disruption of tunnel works. Total trade shutdowns due to the global pandemic have only made the problem more acute.

The Duchess and the Butterfly of Ann Ryan
The Duchess and the Butterfly of Ann Ryan. Photo: Flinders Quarter Augmented Art Walk

“Right now, companies are pretty mistreated, especially at the CBD,” says RPV spokesman Raphael Symons. One of the traders’ complaints after that first walk was, “You brought people to my area, but you didn’t bring people to my store.”

While organizers can’t force people to spend money, this year they’ve added a treasure hunt to increase sales more directly. “If people can find all these works of art, they can earn a voucher to spend on a local business,” Symons says.

It is the right time to consider the role of art in the city, with the recent announcement of the sale of the Nicholas Building, a beautiful 10-story building from 1926 and for many years a center for artists and creators and studios. creative in the Flinders. Quart. Artists concerned about what a sale might mean for their leases have launched a campaign to protect the building’s creative ecosystem, which it did decades ago.

Local traders tell Guardian Australia that they are generally enthusiastic about the Art Walk. Tristan Hyde, of Patch Attack at the Nicholas Building, a patch and ironing shop, says that “any help in getting people to walk around the building is fantastic. In any case, I think it could expand all over. the city “.

Johnny Vakalis, owner of Flinders Lane’s Journal Café, agrees. “I am a great supporter of art and artists. It’s a great idea, but I just wish more people knew about it. There should be queues of people at the door.

Season extensions are possible but expensive, Symons says. And there is “probably less value as more time passes. Half of the value comes from the wow factor. Maintenance and repair are also paralyzing, especially considering that “there is a huge graffiti problem in the city right now.” “We’ve already had at least two deteriorated or half-torn works of art,” Symons says.

As for the expansion or deployment of the event across the CBD, there are no plans to do so at this stage, although similar initiatives are being prepared. In the city of Melbourne there is Flash Forward, a program of installations distributed in 40 lanes of traffic, which includes a list of live performances by local musicians. Theaters are also looking forward to some great shows like Moulin Rouge, which will open in August.

Once again, malls rely on art to help them rejuvenate. But it’s hard not to think that if economic rejuvenation happens at the expense of the artists themselves, Melbourne will feel the loss for years to come.

The Flinders Quarter Augmented Art Walk runs through July 16th

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