– Story by Lin Stranberg
The walkway under the south end of Cambie Bridge sports a high-impact, vinyl geometric mural encompassing the pathway, support pillars and ceiling. On its own, it’s an arresting sight. On a smartphone, it reveals another dimension.
Called Voxel Bridge, it’s the latest public art installation presented by the Vancouver Biennale and it’s like nothing else in the world. In fact, at 19,000 square feet, it’s the biggest blockchain-based augmented reality experience of its kind. It’s named for a voxel, a unit of value analogous to a pixel, with “vo” standing for volume instead of “pi” for picture. A voxel represents a single sample, or data point, on a regularly spaced, three-dimensional grid.
At Voxel Bridge, visitors use their smartphones to experience three realities simultaneously: the real world around them; the world of augmented reality; and the world of blockchain technology. Using the free, downloadable Vancouver Biennale app for iOS and Android devices, people walk through the Voxel Bridge mural and see it morph—through the complex relationship of art and technology—into a multi-dimensional sensory experience.
The installation uses advancements in augmented reality (AR) specially developed for Voxel Bridge by Spheroid Universe and supported by blockchain technology on the Kusama network. This collaboration came about chiefly because Brooklyn-based Colombian artist Jessica Angel has been a pioneer and leading advocate of the art and blockchain movement for years.
(What is blockchain? According to forbes.com: “At its core, blockchain is a distributed digital ledger that stores data of any kind. While any conventional database can store this sort of information, blockchain is unique in that it’s totally decentralized. Rather than being maintained in one location, by a centralized administrator…many identical copies of a blockchain database are held on multiple computers spread out across a network.”)
“Since I was 17, I’ve been connected with the blockchain community because my work has to do with bringing the concept of information to physical spaces through installation art,” she said. “I met a cryptographer who invited me to do a project, which led me to meet mathematicians, blockchain developers and countless others in this amazing, sharing community.”
Blockchain is open-source (non-proprietary) technology, thus Angel feels collaboration is the foundation on which the community was built. For Voxel Bridge, she collaborated closely with Spheroid Universe, the Kusama network and, of course, the team at the Vancouver Biennale.
The Vancouver Biennale is a charitable non-profit organization dedicated to creating open-air museums that celebrate art in Vancouver public space. It features both well-known and emerging international contemporary artists representing diverse cultural perspectives and artistic disciplines. As the definition of public space shifts more and more to virtual space—accelerated by the shifts we’ve experienced during the pandemic—the Biennale’s installations have come to include the most technically advanced examples of augmented and virtual reality (VR).
Jessica Angel knows Vancouver. She is an alumna of the Vancouver Biennale Artist Residency Program in 2018 and 2019, and through the Biennale also curated #ArtProject2020, a five-day virtual conference presented in the context of the bridge project, which brought together the leading minds in the NFT (non-fungible token) space.
Like all the Biennale’s public space art installations, the art may be bought by the city—as with Beijing artist Yue Minjun’s A-maze-ing Laughter, a legacy sculpture now installed in Morton Park in Vancouver’s West End, thanks to a donation from the Chip Wilson family—or sold off to interested collectors instead.
In the case of Voxel Bridge, elements of the art will be available for sale as NFTs which, because they are not physical, means the installation could be in place for years to come.
Delayed by COVID-19 complications, the installation is part of the 2018-2020 Open Air Museum exhibition, under the theme of re-IMAGE-n (reimagine) Public Space, intended to bring together artists from Canada and around the world to address some of the most prevailing issues of our times, one theme being digital technology.
Blockchain technology is a hot topic these days. Although an entire generation is now comfortable with smartphone AR, as used in Pokémon GO or the user-selected filters of Snapchat and Instagram, it’s still early days for blockchain technology. It’s something we all know about but don’t really understand or use, except for a few early adopters.
“This is a new underlying technology that lives on the Internet but it’s decentralized,” Angel said. “It offers new possibilities for cryptocurrencies, security and transparency, things of that nature.” Fittingly, cryptocurrency was used as payment for many of the collaborators on the project.
Her work uses art as the fulcrum to demonstrate the complex blockchain technology to a broad community.
“The design has boxy, block-inspired graphics, connected in the form of chains. Graphically, tapping on the VR links that appear shows the boxes are blocks in the Kusama network, which is just one blockchain of many. Tapping the links enables viewers to see data that lives on the Kusama network, so it’s as if you can dive into the blockchain space at Voxel Bridge.”
She added: “My goal when I created this installation was that people would at least ask questions,” she said. “What is this technology? Why is it important? How is it going to change the world?”
She likens blockchain technology today to the Internet in the ‘90s. “You’d think ‘oh, maybe I can send an email,’ but you wouldn’t see the potential of it until it developed. Something like that is happening right now.
“Blockchain is still really clunky. The mainstream doesn’t understand it so well. So I want to provide the first glimpse, and use art as a way to enter a world that tends to be technical and difficult to understand from an experiential perspective. It’s something I hope people will remember as a memory to cherish.”
Download the Vancouver Biennale app from the App Store, Google Play or www.vancouverbiennale.com and visit Voxel Bridge, located at the south end of Cambie Bridge. It’s best seen during the day, there’s no charge, and the installation has no set closing date as yet.
Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication
In the boreal forest, nature inspires art – Prince Albert Daily Herald
The outside has come inside at the Mann Art Gallery, with simultaneous displays from several artists who draw their inspiration from nature albeit in different ways.
For Ken Van Rees, it was walking through a burnt patch of forest near South End (Reindeer Lake) that caused him to wonder what he could do with charcoal and canvas.
“As I was walking through the forest, I looked down at my pants, they were light-coloured, and there were all these charcoal markings on them,” said Van Rees during a reception held by the gallery on Nov. 26. “I thought, oh, maybe I could do something with this and this started this long journey of creating art from burnt forest.”
Van Rees allows the forest, wind and time to do some of the work for him. He puts a canvas down in a chosen spot, puts a burned log on top and then comes back days, weeks or months later to see what has happened.
He has also set up a game camera and was interested to see the wildlife that stopped and took a sniff or walked on the canvas.
“There were all these animals looking at my artwork. There were deer, there were bears walking across my artwork. There were wolves walking around,” Van Rees said.
Where most people avoid burned areas of nature and look for lush, green landscape, the fiery side of nature has a more visual appeal for him.
“Most of us prefer a green forest. That’s what we like to go camping in or hiking in. For me, because I worked on forest fires when I was a teenager and I had that first experience with forest fires, it somehow resonated with me,” he said.
Van Rees’ art can be found at the Mann Art Gallery until January 15 and is an accompaniment to the work of well known artist Greg Hardy.
In contrast to the more muted colours in Van Rees’ work, Hardy’s in some cases has bursts of orange and other bright colours.
“This is a show of drawings from the La Ronge area, where I have a cabin up on an island,” said Hardy.
About four years ago, Hardy was talking to the then director of the Mann gallery and agreed to a showing of his drawings.
With changes in staff at the gallery and the pandemic, it took time for the exhibition to come together, but it is now displayed.
Some of the drawings were done decades ago and some are more recent but the focus on the natural world is shared with Van Rees.
“I have an affinity for the natural world and I paint a lot of things, but I always come back to its landscape that moves me the most as subject matter,” said Hardy.
Hardy’s career has been established for some time and he makes it his full time occupation, sharing his time between La Ronge and his main studio near Saskatoon.
“Realistically, this is a small sampling of the drawings that I have because I draw all the time,” Hardy explained. “It’s primarily the landscape,” he said of his decision to work in northern Saskatchewan. “We used to go up further north and do a lot of canoe trips and it had always been a dream or a hope to have a wilderness cabin at some point.”
An architect from Prince Albert had the cabin available for sale and so Hardy was able to buy it.
“As soon as I saw it, I was just like this is amazing,” he said. “The subject matter was all around and I knew it was going to be very positive.”
Hardy paints or draws where ever he is, and mainly draws inspiration from the plains before focusing on the forest.
“This was like a 15 year concentration on Lac La Ronge and it still feels like a positive source of inspiration,” he said. “But having said that, I’m shifting gears and going to go back to the plains.”
He looks for good quality light when he paints and also looks for energy.
“The more dramatic the landscape the better. I feel more in tune with what’s going on if there’s a storm or a pending storm,” Hardy explained.
“And I’ve always been taken with the sky, since I was a little kid.”
A third display is up at the gallery for the duration of the exhibition featuring Hardy along with Van Rees.
Title ‘The Secret is in the Paper’, the collection was curated by collections assistant Breanne Bandur and is focused on different approaches to the treatment of paper.
Princess Diana photo exhibition tours three U.S. cities
A new exhibition featuring photographs of the late Princess Diana will be on display in three U.S. cities starting in December.
“Princess Diana Exhibition: Accredited Access” gives a candid view of Diana through the eyes of Anwar Hussein, the longest-serving British royal photographer, and his two sons Zak and Samir Hussein, also photographers. Anwar Hussein took photos of Diana from when she became a public figure until her death in 1997.
“You get to walk through and see a proper journey of how Diana progressed throughout her life from being just a shy, innocent girl to then moving on to being a fashion icon and a humanitarian,” said Zak Hussein, promoting the exhibition in Santa Monica, California.
Visitors are given a phone and headphones so they can read and hear commentary about the significance of each image.
“You get to hear from myself and my brother the stories behind the pictures,” said Zak. “It’s not your regular exhibition of just looking at pictures on the wall … It’s got that more documentary feel about it.”
Zak hopes to educate people about the ways Princess Diana changed the royals. For example, Diana rarely wore gloves.
“Beforehand, it was quite normal for the royals to wear gloves when touching members of the public and it’s something that Diana didn’t do. She wanted to really feel the person and that emotions come across through touch,” said Zak.
Anwar Hussein is widely credited with conveying a more candid view of the royals. Zak said his father excelled at capturing authentic glimpses of the subject’s personality, and advised him to do the same.
“People like to see more candid, more relaxed images of the royals and it’s something that again you can see in this exhibition,” Zak said.
The exhibition by the Husseins goes on display in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York from Dec. 1.
(Reporting by Rollo Ross; Editing by Karishma Singh and Cynthia Osterman)
Aberdeen Art Gallery wins architecture award – Museums Association
Aberdeen Art Gallery has been named Scotland’s building of the year following its recent £36.4m redevelopment.
Aberdeen City Council’s flagship cultural venue was designed by Hoskins Architects. The redevelopment, which was completed in late 2019, involved refurbishing and extending the 19th-century building.
The project involved new exhibition and education spaces, upgraded building services and environmental performance, and improved art handling, storage, back of house and study facilities. Aberdeen Art Gallery is an A-listed building.
Chris Coleman-Smith, director at Hoskins Architects, said: “The team has done an exceptional job of subtly and sensitively restoring original features of the 19th-century building and improving fabric performance, alongside confident alteration and the bold addition of new elements that enhance the visitor experience, knitting together a thread of careful conservation and the requirements of a world class, 21st-century gallery.”
The annual Doolan Award is assessed by an expert jury who look at each project’s architectural integrity, usability and context, delivery and execution, and sustainability. All types of building are eligible for the award, which is named in memory of its founder and patron, the architect/developer Andy Doolan, who died in 2004. The architects of the winning building receive a £10,000.
RIAS president Christina Gaiger PRIAS said: “Aberdeen Art Gallery is an outstanding building and a highly deserving winner of the 2021 Doolan Award. Hoskins Architects have brought a piece of Scottish heritage into the 21st century with humility, skill and sensitivity.
“In the face of the climate emergency, how we upgrade, respect and adapt our existing building stock is absolutely crucial. In Aberdeen Art Gallery we have an outstanding example of how a public building, thanks to the talent of Hoskins Architects and far-sighted clients Aberdeen City Council, exemplifies the smart re-use of an existing building, as part of a collective regenerative response to climate change.”
The redevelopment of the gallery was supported by Aberdeen City Council, which provided £14.6m, and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which contributed £10m. Energy company BP donated £1m to the project.
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