Particle physics art

Jerusalem Botanical Gardens launch large-scale augmented reality art exhibition

An ongoing augmented reality art exhibition initiated by the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens is generating great interest around the world.

The exhibition, “Seeing the Invisible,” features 13 immersive virtual works by established and emerging artists, including Ai Weiwei, Refik Anadol, El Anatsui, Mohammed Kazem, Sarah Meyohas, Pamela Rosenkranz, Timur Si-Qin and the Israelis Sigalit Landau and Ori Gersht.

The augmented reality artwork has been shown in 12 gardens in six countries since September, including Israel.

A visitor holds up her tablet to view Mohammed Kazem’s augmented reality artwork at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens. Courtesy.

Large-scale installations are invisible to the naked eye. To view the art, visitors must use a dedicated augmented reality (AR) application, which overlays images, text and sounds above the open green spaces in the garden.

AR is an enhanced version of the real physical world that is achieved when a real world physical environment is enhanced with computer-generated digital visuals, sound, or other sensory stimuli provided by technology.

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The idea for this exhibition came from the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens in partnership with Outset Contemporary Art Fund, with the support of the Jerusalem Foundation. The development of this exhibition of contemporary art in augmented reality (AR) has always been an international collaboration. It is the first exhibition of its kind to be developed in collaboration with botanical gardens and artistic institutions around the world.

“The Jerusalem Botanical Garden collaborates with many different botanical gardens around the world. We share scientific information about our collections. As far as art and art exhibitions are concerned, we hadn’t had the opportunity to direct anything. It has been really exciting to lead this project, ”Hannah Rendell, executive director of the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, told NoCamels.

Augmented reality
Superimposed augmented reality artwork by El Anatsui. Courtesy

The exhibition was launched in Australia, Israel, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States – and was to run for one year, from September 2021 to August 2022. But requests for this exhibition d Outdoor art is increasing and the exhibit is now translated into new languages ​​to meet demand.

Augmented reality
Augmented reality artwork by El Anatsui. Courtesy

“We have a lot of gardens that are contacting us to do so next year. We would like to get [the exhibit guide] translated into Spanish. We already have it in Hebrew, Arabic and English, ”says Rendell. “We are aiming for 30 to 50 gardens next year. It’s really, really exciting.

12 variations of the same exposure

‘Seeing the Invisible’ was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which museums and galleries closed and virtual tours of galleries were the only way to get a dose of art and culture . As the world began to learn to live with the virus, outdoor art exhibits began to appear in museum courtyards, in city squares and in gardens.

In Jerusalem, a 2020 Jerusalem Botanical Gardens outdoor art exhibit titled “Returning to Nature” hosted 16 sculptures by Israeli artists dotted around the gardens. It was well received and delighted many art and nature lovers who were finally able to come out and enjoy a day of culture. An executive from the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens has caught the art bug to develop a new exhibit.

Sarah Meyohas
An AR photo of artwork by artist Sarah Meyohas in Cranbourne Gardens, Australia. Courtesy: Jerusalem Botanical Gardens

“Gardens around the world have engaged in art projects over the years,” said Hadas Maor, who curated the 2020 exhibit and co-hosted the “Seeing the Invisible” exhibit with Tal Michael Haring, at NoCamels.

The costs of importing art and the possibility of destroying flora are behind-the-scenes aspects that have led to envisioning a different kind of art showcase for botanical gardens.

“Most botanical gardens use art as a way to interact with new audiences and get people to come to their garden. But it comes at a cost… transporting the sculptures or the work can destroy the flora, it takes up space in the garden, massive insurance, and the carbon footprint. So, straight away, the digital aspect [of this exhibit] took all of those things off the table, ”says Rendell.

Isaac julien
Artwork by artist Isaac Julien at the San Diego Botanical Garden. Courtesy: Jerusalem Botanical Gardens

As art museums around the world added digital experiences to their collections that could be seen from home during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, to view this exhibit, visitors must be present in the one of the participating botanical gardens and use the “See the” Invisible “mobile application (developed for this project) on site. Each garden has a map of trails to follow, and at each location, a physical sign marks the area to be scanned for let the work of art come to life.

“This platform is wonderful because it really opens up a huge field of action,” says Maor. “It’s immersive. You have to enter the work to reveal it.

Timur Si-Qin
AR work by artist Timur Si-Qin. Courtesy: Jerusalem Botanical Gardens

It is an exhibition exhibited in different gardens. But even then, each trail route was organized for its specific environment.

“We organized the exhibition with a corpus of 13 works. The works of art are the same. Each garden is different and we have organized a slightly different course for each garden. So it’s like 12 different variations on the same exhibit, ”says Maor.

Phygital – physical and digital

“Seeing the invisible” concerns the work of art as much as the greenery that surrounds it. The exhibition tackles the themes of nature, the environment and sustainability, and explores the links between art, technology and nature.

“Visitors reveal the garden while revealing the works, it’s combined,” says Maor. “You have to cross the garden, you see the different vegetation, you go from a dry area to a wet area. For example, Jakob Kudsk Steensen’s work on a 3D scanned cactus organ is placed in all gardens in an area with a similar type of vegetation. There is a specific reflection on the position of each work in each garden, which the visitor accumulates without even thinking about it.

Jakob Kudst Steensen
Artwork AR by Jakob Kudsk Steensen. Courtesy of the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens.

Maor reiterates that although this is a digital exhibit, “Seeing the Invisible” cannot be experienced online but rather requires people to physically visit the gardens. She calls it a “phygital” experience – combining physical location and digital manifestation.

“I don’t think it’s going to replace museums, and I don’t think AR or VR technologies are going to diminish painting and sculpture and photography and video art. It’s another medium that has entered the realm of art, ”Maor explains of the need to consider the physical and digital realms in the art world.

Sigalit Landau
Sigalit Landau. Courtesy.

Some of the 13 installations in this exhibition “previously existed in a physical dimension and they were translated into AR, and some works were created, especially for the exhibition,” says Maor.

The exhibition includes Landau’s installation Salt Stalagmite # 1 which explores the notion of a bridge as a means to connect people, cultures and languages, and to activate peace;

Weiwei’s large-scale golden cage, which deals with power structures, containment and restriction, as well as preservation and education; and Daito Manabe’s endless dancing digital figure transforming into new forms against the laws of physics.

Bring headphones to hear and see Pamela Rosenkranz’s Anamazon (Limb) as it pulses and oozes or to watch and listen to Refik Anadol’s fascinating artificial intelligence work that pushes us to discover an alternate nature or see and hear how Gersht is sensual and a bouquet of flowers explode in nature or dive into Iceland’s ice caves with the five-screen experience of Isaac Julien.

Go to one of the 12 botanical gardens around the world which currently host the contemporary art exhibition in augmented reality “Seeing the Invisible”, take a tablet or a smartphone with you.

“It’s kind of a mind game,” says Maor. “It’s all on screen, but you feel like you’re in the art. This is the phygital experience.


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