ReBlink is the kind of art/technology mash-up that will be decried as awful and blasphemous by some or exciting and innovative by others. Toronto-based digital artist Alex's Mayhew's modern reinterpretations of classic paintings allows viewers to witness a work of art come to life through their phone or tablet.
The Art Gallery of Ontario's novel augmented reality exhibition is running until December and takes the form of an app called ReBlink that visitors download onto their phone or tablet. Then once inside the gallery, classic Canadian and European art works come to life when looked at through a visitor's mobile device, revealing Mayhew's often bizarre modern additions.
Needless to say, some of Mayhew's additions, dubbed "re-mixes", are a little on the nose. One self-portrait reveals the subject holding an iPhone, while another pops up a selfie-stick demonstrating a slightly simplistic take on the clash between past and present.
More interesting is the way some works are thoughtfully time-shifted, such as George Agnew Reid's Drawing Lots. The painting depicts three boys playing a game in the early 20th century, but when viewed through Mayhew's AR-lens we see the boys all separated, immersed on their individual smartphones.
Another work shows a classic painting of a 19th century village in winter transform into a dystopian industrial disaster zone. A figure in a biohazard suit appears next to the canvas and watches you wander around the entire room.
ReBlink isn't the first time AR has been deployed in a gallery setting. Earlier in 2017 Australian artist Sutu launched an augmented reality book by showcasing the technology in a gallery setting. The exhibition could be viewed through a smartphone that brought each individual work of art to life when viewed through the AR lens.
Back in 2015 Josue Abraham revealed his Virtualidades exhibition, which on first inspection seemed like a series of unfinished sculptures. But when viewed through a tablet or phone these deceptively simplistic sculptures expanded, as the walls of the gallery grew arms or static objects sprung to life.
Some may find this kind of AR-enhanced art an empty gimmick or an awful bastardization of an artist's original intent, but it seems destined to become more than just a passing technological fad. As devices like the HoloLens bring AR into popular focus, it's hard to imagine future art galleries not being souped up interactive experiences. AR-enhanced environments also offer artists the ability to turn the world into a gallery. Four white walls cannot contain the future of this art.
Take a look at the ReBlink teaser in the video below.
Source: Art Gallery of Ontario
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