Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Virtual Public Art Comes to Philadelphia

In a few weeks DesignPhiladelphia 2010 comes to town, and there are an array of really cool projects that are part of it that my Office has been working on. I thought over the next couple of weeks it would be fun to begin to preview some of this exciting work. First up: Virtual Public Art.

What is Virtual Public Art you say? Well whip out your smart phone and get ready for some mind-bending public art that exists only in "virtual space" but that is also part of the real space we live in. The first city-wide virtual art exhibit is coming to Philadelphia October 7, 2010. Breadboard; NextFab Studio; and Virtual Public Art Project(VPAP) are collaborating with the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, and DesignPhiladelphia2010 to host the first VPAP exhibit in Philadelphia as part of Design Philadelphia 2010. The VPAP Philadelphia project will include an informative multimedia exhibit at Breadboard’s Esther Klein Gallery (3600 Market Street) that introduces the Philadelphia community to the technology behind Augmented Reality and virtual art, and to recent VPAP projects in other cities around the world.

The image above is from a piece called Cargo, created by VPAP developer Christian Meinhardt. These structures could never exist in the "real world" being composed of hovering cargo containers that defy the laws of gravity. Yet this art was "installed" in various locations around the world damaged by human intervention, evoking the "cargo cults" created among native populations by American intervention in WWII. As an aside, can't help noting the connection to Mike Daisey's The Last Cargo Cult, a theatre piece presented as part of last year's Live Arts Festival. Below is a video that gives a sense of how this works: a 30' tall sculpture virtually installed in Prospect Park in NYC.

VPAP Philadelphia will also locate eight unique virtual artworks (created by Philadelphia artists) at various locations around Philadelphia’s City Hall location and the University City Science Center campus. These works will be viewable through the camera on any smart phone equipped with free downloaded VPAP application software. Breadboard is a new University City Science Center program that promotes art and design at the intersection of science and technology. VPAP is a new organization that is literally pushing the boundaries of public space and art via free Augmented Reality platforms easily accessible through smart phone applications. DesignPhiladelphia is the nation's largest celebration of its kind, a city-wide initiative showcasing the role that design has played historically in Philadelphia, and unites the creative disciplines – from architecture to interior design, fashion to product design, multi-media to graphic design.

Philadelphia has an incredibly strong cultural sector, as well as a long tradition of design and technology innovation. This program brings those strengths together in a very exciting way. I have been working with the Breadboard folks on an array of projects that unite science, art, design and technology in extraordinary ways that both serve our community and shine national and international light on what we’re doing here. Very cool stuff... I have also been meeting with the folks from the Vincent Michael Gallery in Northern Liberties, and they are also developing a technology for virtual public art. Look forward to collaborating with them as well!

VPAP uses emergent Augmented Reality platforms to create virtual art in public spaces by merging computer generated imagery with physical, real-world locations. The finished projects be viewed using the iPhone 3GS and Android phones. Just imagine the potential: A massive sculpture could be installed in the City Hall courtyard (or even replace William Penn on the Tower). The Liberty Bell could melt and reassemble itself right before your eyes (on your phone at least). Art can interject itself where the laws of physics or historic preservation would otherwise make it impossible.

Breadboard will also sponsor a suite of supporting workshops and events at NextFab Studio as part of DesignPhiladelphia 2010. These workshops will generate opportunities for Philadelphia artists and individuals to gain more in-depth understanding about virtual art and Augmented Reality and/or work on content to submit digital art work for consideration in the upcoming VPAP exhibit.

Artists and individuals interested in submitting work for the VPAP Philadelphia exhibit may contact

VPAP Public Events and Timeline:

September 1, 6:00-8:00 pm at NextFab Studio (3711 Market Street, Philadelphia)Public talk and demonstration with Chris Manzione, founder of the Virtual Public Art Project. This event will include a Smartphone walking tour to view temporary VPAP virtual content geo-tagged along the Science Center’s Market Street corridor.

September 18, 10:00 am-4:00 pm at NextFab Studio (3711 Market Street, Philadelphia)Special all-day VPAP Workshop: an Augmented Reality workshop where individuals can work one on one with VPAP personnel and learn how to create virtual content that can be viewed using smart phone applications. This event will also serve as a primer for individuals wishing to submit content for consideration in the VPAP Philadelphia exhibit.

September 18, 12:00 -1:00 pm at NextFab Studio (3711 Market Street, Philadelphia) Special presentation by Christian Meinhardt (VPAP software developer): Practical applications and how to guide for AR enthusiasts

October 7 at City Hall and Science Center locations VPAP Philadelphia launches virtual art exhibit (in collaboration with start of DesignPhiladelphia’s sixth year). Virtual artwork created by Philadelphia artists will be viewable through free smart phone applications at City Hall and Science Center locations.

October 15, 5:00-8:00pm at Breadboard’s Esther Klein Gallery (3600 Market Street, Philadelphia) Opening Reception for The Virtual Public Art Project: an indoor multi-media exhibit that introduces the public to VPAP and the technology behind virtual art. (The EKG exhibit will open in September but the public reception is October 15.)