Both virtual reality and augmented reality have been used experimentally by artists. Virtual reality has made art more accessible to both creators and enthusiasts. With a VR headset, users can be transported to galleries around the world, and with programs such as TiltBrush, painting and drawing in 3D becomes an astonishing reality. Augmented reality has allowed Snapchat to bring well-known artworks to the masses, while artists like Nancy Baker Cahill have launched AR apps to put their art into the real world via people’s phones.
But recently in New York, a group of eight internet artists found an innovative new way to use augmented reality in art, although there’s a strong chance the art community will frown upon the idea. In February, the group, which calls itself MoMAR, made a statement against the elitism and exclusivity of the art world by transforming the Jackson Pollock room at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art into an augmented reality gallery—without ever obtaining permission from the museum.
The group’s covert installation was called Hello, we’re from the internet, and overlaid their own works over the top of seven Jackson Pollock paintings. Of course, they didn’t do this physically in the real world—they exhibited the artworks in the space in augmented reality, meaning anyone who had downloaded the MoMAR app could point their phone at the Pollock paintings and see the MoMAR alternative.
“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.’ 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,” the collective wrote on their website.
“Our main idea is to democratize open spaces,” Danjan Pita, one of the artists who goes by Damjanski, told Vice’s Motherboard. “The act of being open to the public is a little bit ironic because you still have an elite who is defining what is open to the public.”
What’s interesting about the movement is that there appears to be very little MoMA can do about it. No physical action has taken place, and they can hardly ban people from looking at the paintings through the phones.
Using technology to bring art to a wider audience is a larger theme that will no doubt become more important in years to come. Many in the art community have rallied against expensive museums and galleries putting up barriers to the enjoyment of art, but through VR and AR, the art can come to the viewer.