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Maja Stark: "We create the basis"

Maja Stark: "We create the basis"
Photo: © Xavier Bonnin Apropos Foto

Maja Stark is coordinator of the INKA project AURORA at the HTW Berlin. Together with her team, she teaches artists and cultural workers how to use the technology of Augmented Reality (AR) for their own purposes - thus filling a gap in the cultural sector. But how exactly does it work? What is so special about AR?

Interview: Boris Messing


CCB Magazine:Bonjour Maja. Ça va?

Maja Stark:Bonjour, ça va bien. Et toi?

CCB Magazine:You studied art history with the subsidiary subjects French and Italian in Berlin and Paris and are now coordinating the INKA project AURORA School for ARtists at the HTW Berlin. Please tell us, what fascinates you about Augmented Reality and how did the AURORA project come about?

Maja Stark:What fascinates me about Augmented Reality is that you can combine the analog and the virtual world - in contrast to Virtual Reality, where you are completely immersed in the virtual world. You still have the reference to the analog world, you can play with it and create interesting synergies that surprise and open up an additional dimension. The project AURORA was created through the experience of the research group INKA at the HTW, where I work. INKA, in turn, is part of the Research Center for Culture and Computer Science, which is located at the intersection of culture and computer science. Our research group leader, Jürgen Sieck, had the brilliant idea of communicating the AR technology, which is otherwise reserved for large players, to cultural workers, because he recognized that this was a gap in offers for the independent creative scene. With EFRE funding, we were able to implement this.

CCB Magazine:And what does INKA stand for, Maja?

Maja Stark:INKA stands for information and communication applications - and currently mainly for three interdisciplinary projects (APOLLO, AURORA and, from September, XR_Unites) in which mobile applications for the cultural and creative sector are being developed.

CCB Magazine:You show artists how to use and integrate AR for their art. Is there a project that particularly impressed you?

Maja Stark:I think it's great when it gets into social criticism, for example in Dani Ploeger's project Smart Fence or in Theresa Reiwer's work TOVIAS. I also think it's great when projects develop into potential business models. That reminds me of Anke von der Heide with her planning application MIRAR for façade projections. As an HTW project we always try to build a bridge to the economy. But from the perspective of art history, I also love works like those by Bianca Kennedy or Felix Kraus, which add an extra dimension to paintings through AR. 

AR will continue to spread. I see particular potential in the industrial and medical fields. However, cultural institutions and freelance creatives will also benefit from new fields of experimentation, expression and communication

CCB Magazine:You are also a lecturer for the art and cultural history of AR. Since when has this technology existed and who developed it?

Maja Stark:The technology has been developed since the 1950s/60s. The creative sector has played an important role from the beginning. In the 1950s, for example, Morton Heilig developed Sensorama, which, as the cinema of the future, was to expand all the senses. The most famous and first example from research is Ivan Sutherland's Head Mounted Display from 1968, which was a massive, ceiling-mounted spectacle construction. It only became more mobile in the 1990s with the first laptops and then, of course, with smartphones as small mini-computers. The original intention of the technological development was in the area of industry and production: At Boeing, experiments with AR to support manual production were already being carried out in the 1990s.

CCB Magazine:Do you think AR will one day become a mass medium? Where do you see the greatest potential?

Maja Stark:Definitely. A big catch at the moment are the many small apps that you have to download first and that sometimes consume a lot of memory capacities. I think as soon as there are more web solutions, AR will spread more and more. I see potential especially in the industrial and medical sector, where AR is already being used more and more. Cultural institutions and freelance creatives also benefit from new fields of experimentation, expression and communication. The medium could one day replace the smartphone in the form of affordable AR glasses or contact lenses. In this context, however, I think it is very important that AR is critically discussed and accompanied - especially by artists and cultural workers. AURORA offers a good basis for this.

CCB Magazine:The AR projects that you create work through apps on different devices. How much programming knowledge is necessary to realize such a project? Is that even possible to master in only a few months?

Maja Stark:That's right, partly you have to be able to program. That depends on the complexity of the app. At AURORA, we can only create a basis in the short time available, of course, and not teach what others study for three years. But people can get a taste of it and continue to work on it themselves afterwards. Or they can apply for a job in our production laboratory after the courses. Those who have a strong concept and have been able to solve a technical task will receive support in implementing their own app over a period of three to six months.

CCB Magazine:Speaking of people. How many are applying for a course, in general?

Maja Stark:Thanks to EFRE funding, the course participants only have to pay 20 euros for catering, so the rush is really big. The courses are now always full, we have waiting lists. I have the impression that there is a great demand and that the offer is accepted very gratefully.

CCB Magazine:Officially the AURORA project ends in 2021, but because of Corona the next courses are cancelled in September. Will there be an alternative date? Will AURORA be continued over 2021?

Maja Stark:AURORA runs until the end of March 2021, so we can't offer any more courses for the time being. But the production laboratory and the AR consultation hour will continue. And for the end of September 2020 we are planning short instructional videos for the first and second course. An extension until the end of 2021 is conceivable; we are in discussion with the Senate Department for Culture and Europe on this. On September 1, 2020, our new EFRE project, also in the INP-II program, will start for the first time with the title XR_Unites - Collaborative Cultural Offerings with Extended Reality! 

CCB Magazine:Well then, bonne chance.

Category: New Player


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