Marble-Like Mini-Worlds Invade Miami Art Week And Your Mobile Screen
The gallery world's sphere of influence seems to be expanding into the realm of Pokémon Go—why that's a good thing
If there’s anything Pokémon Go proved this year, it’s that augmented reality (AR) can seamlessly layer whole new worlds over our own—provided you have an easy-to-use smartphone app. This Miami Art Week, one artist took this idea several steps further by making her own ‘worlds’ out of Miami Beach imagery and then digitally (and physically) layering them over Miami Beach itself. Miami Marbles, PULSE Miami Beach’s hybrid physical/AR art installation by Brooklyn-based digital media artist Anne Spalter, starts with a simple premise.
“The concept for the work,” according to Spalter, “draws on my use of video and still-image algorithmic manipulation to create entire ‘worlds’ from individual scenes or videos clips.” The result is a surreal, spellbinding peek into the future of digital art.
Beginning with photographs and videos of Miami Beach locations taken by Spalter last year, she used a blend of Adobe and custom software to turn standard images of things like swimming pools and the beach into kaleidoscopic 3D orbs.
“I wanted each sphere to have distinct visual qualities,” Spalter emphasized, “forms, color palette, location, and weather and time of day, but to fit into a coherent body of work.”
The resulting marbles, with names like Candy Sunspot and Lounge Chair of Jupiter, take the scenes out of their Miami Beach settings and into the infinite possibilities of the cosmos. “I was fascinated by the way that each environment became something like a separate planet once it was realized in its 3D form,” Spalter said, “and the naming sprung from that feeling.”
Spalter then printed these digital shapes into a series of nine different 7-to-16 foot in diameter inflatable balloons made of fabric “stretched over a separate airtight rubber membrane” and spread across PULSE and other locations, including the COMO Metropolitan Miami Beach hotel.
The innovative part of Miami Marbles comes into play with its custom app. With the help of Halifax-based Current Studios, the downloadable Miami Marbles app allows viewers to interact with Spalter’s spherical designs in surprising ways.
One option allows users to point the camera on their Apple or Android-enabled device at one of the physical orbs. The user will be prompted to select from a set of virtual orb replicas to match with its corresponding physical twin. Once these overlay, the user can click to play a video over the physical orb, showing its already trippy design perpetually feedback looping into itself (an effect similar to her previous work, World of Water).
The other option lets users snap and share photos with one of Spalter’s pre-generated orbs in the background. Originally, the virtual orbs were meant to be geo-tagged to specific locations around PULSE for users to find (much like the titular characters of a certain popular AR smartphone game). However, the accidental result is that even users who’ve never stepped foot in Miami Beach can summon up the marble-like mini-worlds anywhere and anytime. In a sense, the app has expanded the longevity of Miami Marbles beyond its original intent as PULSE Miami Beach’s first PROJECTS Special Commission recipient, and the first visual spectacle to greet visitors entering the art fair.
Beyond her own project, Spalter sees a bright future for augmented artwork as a specific experience, citing the work of Claudia Hart at this year’s concurrently running UNTITLED, Miami Beach 2016.
“Unlike VR,” she noted, “one does not need a lot of special equipment—and it doesn’t block out the real world.” Whereas the art world is more familiar with physical video art installations, she also makes the case for the unique place AR could hold with video art collectors, galleries and others, adding, “the opportunity to see moving imagery only when desired is intriguing to me.”
While the art world may never reach the widespread appeal of videogame franchises, Miami Marbles and AR show that the lines between the gallery world and Pokémon Go have become as blurry as Spalter’s own orbs.
“Although we didn’t use any game-type aspect,” Spalter said, “I find the experience of placing and sharing the virtual spheres quite magical.”