IOR – Index of Refraction
The series of Augmented Reality Filters for use on Instagram and Facebook, exploring the potential of abstracted in the age of the selfie. Premiered in combination with a large scale wall drawing at the Seidel’s Solo Exhibition »Robert Seidel / IOR – Index of Refraction« at Kunsthaus Erfurt.
Interlocked spaces and physically impossible objects
In the context of the project IOR – Index of Refraction I dedicate myself for the first time to the topic of »Augmented Reality«, although 3D software has been the driving force of my artistic practice since the beginning. With this technology, a smartphone or tablet is used to superimpose digital and virtual 3D information with the (real) image of the device’s own camera. The viewer thus has the opportunity to explore a virtual 3D object in real, three-dimensional space. By the feedback of the camera, correlating with the movement of the own hand, the transformation of the environment by the personal smartphone becomes directly comprehensible. While the more complex technology »Virtual Reality« creates hurdles with VR headsets and expensive hardware, AR is much more directly useable within the familiar working metaphors of the private high tech companion.
Dissolving material boundaries
In my artistic work, which has undergone a transformation from experimental films to expanded video installations and architectural projections, this is a consistent step towards dissolving material boundaries. My abstract formal language has become accessible to a large audience through works in public space, but often remains bound to a fixed chronology (sometimes only being visible for a few days at festivals) and physical as well as budgetary boundaries, that create a barrier for the public. AR dissolves this material level and allows us to approach the artwork freely at any time, to look at it from all angles, even to walk through it, since its virtual hulls offer no resistance. This act of exploration and imposing is part of the underlying mechanics, which is impossible in real museums or art institutions.
In virtual space, objects can be freely placed as well as deformed and existing spaces can be expanded or transformed. In this way, works are created that are part of the ever-increasing digitalization of society – not in the sense of optimization – but in the creation of something new and contemporary that accumulation everything in itself. A great inspiration for me are imaging processes from science that allow researchers to look behind the visible properties of molecules, the body or even planets – the unleashed gaze leaves the imagination and creates friction with reality.
Furthermore, all my works are based on the desire to dissolve the boundaries of media genres. The initial sketch (often on paper) develops into films, sculptures, installations, paintings, laser drawings, microscopy imagery and projections onto buildings as well as nature. But the first step, the sketch, is normally lost through the transformation processes. With AR, all the steps of a work could be interwoven in the final work itself. The sketch floats in space as we approach it, sculptural forms become visible and break the static by passing through their evolutionary stages: Glacier-like sculptural formations refract space weightlessly, penetrating the walls without counteraction, or diffuse clusters of colour flow through the picture. The soundtrack is also located in the spatiality of the room, so that a new sound field emerges as we walk through it, further differentiating the virtual objects. The artistic process gets democratized over time and literally lies in the hands of the viewer, who individually extends the image and sound axes with his device.
The future impulses of the Bauhaus redeemed
The resulting apps are reminiscent to the ideas of the »Light-Space-Modulator« of the Bauhaus artists László Moholy-Nagy, creating works of art that are constantly repositioned through colour, form, texture, sound, light and shadow – never standing still. Having studied at the Bauhaus University Weimar myself, it is important to challenge the viewers and to transfer already known individual concepts into previously unseen constellations. These visions of the Bauhaus are taking shape, as László Moholy-Nagy pointed out in his book »Vision In Motion« from 1947: »...the ultimate kinetic sculpture would be a virtual structure...«.
Today, the smartphone is mainly known for its information retrieval, virtual-social interaction, music and games. A work of art that rests at the junction of these four pillars, but does not pursue these tasks in a goal-oriented manner, it offers the full potential of being shaped by the pure interests of the users. In times of scarcity of urban space, virtual spaces will probably offer the greatest (artistic) freedom in the multidisciplinary linking of ideas in the future. An artwork can take place on one or millions of screens, bridge gigantic distances, while passing the eye in a second or uncover over months.
AR technology is currently deeply explored on a commercial level. As an artist, the time before the formulation of »recipes for use« can still hold loopholes and new visual worlds, which can be wrenched from the medium. The artist’s personal incorporation into the complex technological processes is essential, as is the use of expertise from the field. This project was made possible with the help of the Thuringian Cultural Foundation and the first presentation of the work at the Kunsthaus Erfurts may not coincide with the Bauhaus anniversary by chance. The three AR apps Ghostface, Polymorphism and VaporPaint are freely available on popular social media platforms – a state-supported art project should leave behind the mechanics of artificial scarcity on the art market and potentially be able to implant itself »in every smartphone«. The time has now come after 100 years of the beginnings of the Bauhaus tearing down genre boundaries...
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This AR filter detects portraits, single humans as well as crowds, turning them into painterly silhouettes. Reminiscent of the scientific gaze of infrared cameras it transforms even the most everyday situations into shape-shifting textural compositions.
[→ Instagram Filter] [→ Facebook Filter]
This unique painting tool allows you to add brushstrokes to your front camera view. By potentially tracking a planar surface you can even expand your canvas into the third dimension, diving into an ethereal color field painting.
Switch to Front Camera – Paint!
Tap – Start / Pause the Brush
Long Press – Activate Gravity
Pinch – Scale the Brush
Swipe – Switch the Brush
Augmented Reality Apps + Drawing, D 2018
Artwork: Robert Seidel
Sound: Nikolai von Sallwitz
Dimension: Drawing 500 × 90cm
Premiered at the Solo Exhibition
»Robert Seidel / IOR – Index of Refraction«
Location: Kunsthaus Erfurt, Germany
November 23, 2018 – January 25, 2019
Funding: Kulturstiftung des Freistaats Thüringen
Exhibition Production: Monique Förster, Kunsthaus Erfurt
Exhibition Setup: Ulrich Madeheim, Tom Plehn, Dirk Teschner and Florian Förster
Opening Speech: Christoph Tannert, Künstlerhaus Bethanien
Technical Support: Falk Müller
Equipment Support: Ulrike Pennewitz, Max Hattler
Web Support: Robert Berneis
Special thanks in preparation of the overall exhibition to Miriam Eichner, Alex Tolar, Carolin Israel, Marc Jung, Christian Werner, Ivar Zeile and everyone else making this project possible!
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