A guerrilla augmented reality exhibition has taken over a room at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. The unauthorized exhibition, accessed via a smartphone app, overlays the glitch art of David Kraftsow on top of classic Jackson Pollock artworks.
The exhibition is run by a group called MoMAR, self-described as "non-profit, non-owned, and existing in the absence of any privatized structures," which appeared in early March with its first AR exhibition entitled Hello, we're from the internet.
The group chose the Jackson Pollock room at MoMA as the site for its AR takeover as it is a permanent collection allowing for the work on the walls to be easily mapped and calibrated for AR. The goal of the MoMAR project is to democratize the world's physical exhibition spaces which the group claims have been taken over by rich galleries that control the curation and definition of what is "art".
"If we are to understand that art is the great measure of our culture we must also acknowledge it is owned, valued and defined by 'the elite,'" MoMAR states on its website."We must also recognize then that the term 'open to the public' is not an invitation, but a declaration of values. Values that are not our own. And so it has remained for 335 years. Until now."
This second AR exhibition is the first solo exhibition presented by the group, and it highlights the work of David Kraftsow. The eight artworks in the exhibition are generated by a Twitter bot Kraftsow created called youtube artifact. The bot currently generates a new image every four hours and posts its creations on Twitter.
To generate each image Kraftsow's algorithm lets the bot pull a specific video off YouTube, which is found through a convoluted set of parameters. Then, using a technique called datamoshing, the bot generates a still image from the video, with specifically introduced coding errors creating an impressionistic swirl of colors.
In describing the exhibition the MoMAR introduction asks, "If the role of art in society is to incite reflection and ask questions about the state of our world, can algorithms be a part of determining and defining people's artistic and cultural values?"
This isn't the first time AR has invaded an art gallery, but the unauthorized nature of MoMAR certainly points to some compelling possible future uses for the technology. The ability to reclaim spaces that have classically been prohibitively controlled suggests an almost anarchic deconstruction of traditional environments.
At the opening of the first guerrilla MoMAR exhibition in March, one of the artists working on the project remarked to Motherboard, "We literally are trying to claim the space. They can't do anything against us."
To date, MoMA has remained quiet about this digital intrusion, after all, there isn't a huge amount it can really do about it. Questions over who owns or can control virtual spaces are only just being explored by courts now. A massive class action lawsuit against the developers of the popular 2016 AR game Pokémon Go is currently digging into how to legally define the entirely new concept of 'virtual trespassing'.
The most recent ruling from a federal judge in San Francisco has allowed the case to continue, but the judge did clarify that this case will not be suggesting the app developers were trespassing by placing virtual objects on a private property. Instead, the question will be did the company induce players of the game to trespass onto private property.
In the case of museums, this Pokémon case will certainly not clarify questions over whether an entity can control its own virtual space, and until an AR intrusion becomes significantly disruptive this issue will inevitably simmer in the background. The creators of MoMAR are encouraging more artists around the world to "hack" public spaces. The group has made its entire process transparent and open source with expansive instructions available on its website. The goal is to allow artists all over the world to create their own AR apps tailored to local exhibition spaces.
The current MoMAR exhibition runs until September 6th in the Jackson Pollock room on the 5th floor at MoMA. The AR app to access the exhibition is available on both Android and iOS.
Take a look through our gallery for a glimpse at some more of David Kraftsow's youtube artifact work.
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