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MDM Alumni & Student Artwork Featured in Vancouver Mural Fest Winter Arts Event

For the last half of February, public space across Vancouver’s core was transformed into an interactive, open-air gallery featuring Augmented Reality
March 24, 2021

For the last half of February, public space across Vancouver’s core was transformed into an interactive, open-air gallery featuring Augmented Reality (AR) art by local and international artists. VMF Winter Arts combined the spirit of the annual Vancouver Mural Festival with innovative digital technology to inspire residents to get outside and feel connected to their city.

“After the success of Make Art While Apart over the summer, the team at VMF wanted to give folks something to look forward to during the winter, which we were hearing from officials would be very bleak,” said Angela Hamilton, co-chair of the Board of Directors for Vancouver Mural Festival (and MDM alum). “The intention of VMF Winter Arts was to give people something safe to do outdoors during the pandemic, and create a community vibe that would provide happiness and connection during a scary time.”

Artwork by four Master of Digital Media alumni and students was featured in the event. We chatted with alumni Kavya Satyakumar & Adam Peregovits (who formed AKA Collective) and Yuan Zhang and current student Lucy Hu about what inspired their pieces and the process of creating AR art.

Have you made AR art before? Was this your first time being involved in this type of event?

This was our first time making AR art. The Pandemic was a strange time for us as our company’s vision is to create interactive physical installations that use digital technology. With the restrictions on physical gatherings due to COVID-19, a lot of those opportunities were put on hold and we naturally pivoted into creating interactive artwork that could be experienced in this ‘new normal’. This was our first time being part of and getting a glimpse into what these events could be like as we move and evolve through the pandemic.

How did you come up with the idea?

Spatial context is a key factor for us when brainstorming creative concepts. In this case, we knew that the final poster would be in a physical space and in the form of a box and that became our starting point of conversation. This led to us talking about ‘thinking outside the box’ and then thinking about what that meant to us and then to people in general. A lot of our ideas evolve through conversations with each other and with other people.

What inspired you?

The driving force behind our work is the opportunity to create work that blurs the lines between the real and the virtual worlds, together. So, in a larger sense, we inspire each other through our shared admiration for other artists’ work, ideas and thoughts that come up in life, random conversations and our general enthusiasm to make cool stuff. The whole process of creating work, seeing it come to life and watching people interact with it is a source of inspiration in itself.

What was the process like?

A great learning experience, for sure! We both worked in software and a medium that was new to us. The curators at VMF were great mentors and super supportive throughout the process. It was also greatly community driven with online spaces for critique, feedback and sharing of resources.

Image from AKA Collective

Did you see your piece in action? What do you think?

It’s always great to see your work realized in its full form. We first experienced our piece on a snowy day and it was really rewarding to see other people experience it. The curators selected a great spot for the piece. The actual backdrop to the AR artwork was in line with the visual style and aesthetic of our work. This allowed both realities to be experienced together in a really cohesive manner.

Do you think there's a future for these types of events or AR art pieces? What do you think is the future of technology/art in the public space?

A lot of social apps like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook have incorporated AR technology as part of their product features. Softwares like SparkAR have now opened that door to a creator network - resulting in a lot of content being produced. The biggest barrier to entry for experiencing AR work was that the audience needed to download a third-party app, which is a drop-off point for most people. By integrating these sorts of experiences within apps that most people already have on their phones, that barrier is greatly reduced. At the outset, this model seems to be pretty promising for the future of AR experiences.

Public art is a driving factor towards building spaces and a sense of community - both from a culture and entertainment standpoint. Creators and artists are finding new ways to create despite and within the restrictions resulting from the pandemic. As artists ourselves, we think that technology will play a huge role in bringing these spaces to life and we’re excited about the possibilities that entails.

Instagram: @akacollectiv3 ||

Have you made AR art before? Was this your first time being involved in this type of event?

It was my first time making AR art, and my first time being involved in this kind of event. I had joined an online gallery event before, but it is more like a 360 image type.

How did you come up with the idea?

I created the original sketches when I was in the Project 2 term of the Master of Digital Media Program at Centre for Digital Media (CDM). I wanted to draw something on stickers and have them interact with each other through a series of different stickers. The main motivation for this design was to create something fun and interactive.

What inspired you?

Totoro! When I was doing the character design, I definitely kept the spirit of Totoro in mind - something cute and friendly. The game Fall Guys inspired me as well. I created a 3D work for the game, and the process of doing the work made me think “why not bring my own character to life?”

What was the process like?

I started by making a character design and creating a few sticker drawings for the character. After Fall Guys came out, a few friends from CDM and I wanted to use it to create a small multiplayer game for people to play during COVID. So, I started making the 3D model and creating animation for it. During this process, my friend Leo was helping me create the rig of the character. I also used some motion capture data to create the dancing animation in the work.

Have you seen your piece in action? What do you think?

Yes, it is really exciting to see it finally come to life! Even though I’ve seen it hundreds of times in 3D, it still feels very different to see it in VR. I’m really happy to see people interacting with it and posting videos dancing with it.

Instagram: @lionsssong ||

How did you come up with the idea?

This design came from an older piece I’d made. In college I 3D printed this phone holder that was a snake with its mouth open.

What inspired you?

I saw this image online. It was a snake trying to eat an egg, but it had these big, almost cartoon-like eyes. I’m a reptile lover, but my mom is afraid of snakes. I showed her the picture, and she laughed, and I thought “maybe there’s a way I can make snakes cute, that will appeal to people who don’t love them.”

What was the process like?

Originally, I submitted a pumpkin head design for consideration, but since the event was taking place in the winter, it didn’t quite fit with the theme. Ben, from the VMF team, reached out to see if I had another design I wanted to submit. He actually called me, helped me through the ideation process, and supported me through reimagining my older piece into its current design in the span of three weeks.

I think part of what makes snakes seems scary is their scaly texture, so I gave the snake a sparkly skin and used a floral pattern to make it feel less cold blooded. But I maintained the texture for the snake so it didn’t lose its essence. I hope it inspires people to reconsider their opinion on snakes!

Instagram: atheris0vv0