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AURORA sunshine

AURORA sunshine
Photo: © Zsu Zsabo

Through the implementation of augmented reality applications, works can be extended by further dimensions. The art and cultural scene has also discovered this for itself. At the HTW Berlin, the AURORA program now gives artists and cultural workers the opportunity to take a closer look at AR technology in order to integrate it into their own artistic work. The following three examples show what can come out of this.

Interview: Boris Messing


Dani Ploeger

Dani Ploeger's art is subversive and often socially critical. The 42-year-old Dutchman combines performance, video, programming and electronic hacking to, as he calls it, "explore situations of conflict and crisis on the edge of high-tech consumerism". For this, he also takes a risk at times. In 2017 he was on tour with front troops in the Donbass and did a VR installation and a film work with them. The year before he took part in a firearms training in Poland, where he fired an AK-47 at an iPad and captured the action on film. He worked with metal workers in Cairo to cover tablet computers with sheet steel. His art, his actions are "more of a question" and "a message of confusion" than they would give a clear answer, he himself describes them as "post-conceptual".

Perhaps it is due to Ploeger's erratic biography that his art is so diverse. For he came to performance art via detours from music. Ploeger studied trombone in The Hague and initially oriented himself towards experimental music; an "escapade" in the Orchestra Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic followed. But the decisive turning point came only after his music studies, when he had worked for two years in Ramallah as a music and performance teacher and decided that he would rather do work that was "related to his immediate surroundings". Ploeger went to England without further ado and wrote a doctoral thesis in the field of performance and media theory - that had been his entire "art education". From then on he did what he wanted to do and experimented with different techniques and styles.

His latest work Smart Fence was partly created in the context of AURORA. The multi-part work includes an exhibited piece of border fence, a replica of a sign with the inscription "Caution electric fence", which, when you hold your app of any terminal device on it, shows a three-dimensional fence, and an augmented screen print. He got the idea for this when he saw a documentary in the media about the high-tech border fence in Hungary. Smart Fence is an ironic allusion to the term of "smart" devices that are supposed to make our lives easier: Smart phones, smart homes, smart clothes. In relation to the border fence, the positive connotation of these devices obscures its actual intention of exclusion and isolation; according to Ploeger, the "depiction of the fence as a technological object" plays an ideological role in trivializing and concealing its actual purpose. Smart sounds good and desirable. As in his other works, he formulates his artistic criticism as an "open question". Is the Smart Fence really so smart or just a euphemism for problems we don't want to see? The AR project was supported and accompanied by the AURORA team of the HTW.

Sarah Müller

The designer Sarah Müller says she comes from the "agency world" and sees herself more as a service provider than as an artist; in her spare time she likes to work with photography and "somewhat freer graphics". She attended all AURORA courses in February and March of this year and then developed her AR project New York New York in the production laboratory - one of those "somewhat freer" graphic projects, so to speak. For this, the 32-year-old has now been awarded the world-renowned Red Dot design prize in the field of communication design.

The application is a visual interpretation of New York's city districts. Images can be experienced and interactively used via the app. Brush strokes can be removed and redrawn, elements can be rearranged and skyscrapers become scalable. From October New York New York will also be part of the app INKA AR. Sarah Müller got the idea for the project during a visit to New York last year. She roamed through the many boroughs of the big city and took one photo after another. From these she later distilled 30 photos for the app. She found out about AURORA by chance through a friend. So one thing led to another. The designer is now passionate about AR and wants to continue working with it. Especially for magazines in the area of layout, she sees many possible applications for VR technology. She has already taken the first big step and on top of that has won a highly prestigious award.

Olga Bedia Lang and Julia Laube

Julia Laube studied costume and stage design at the UdK Berlin, and in between she also studied media art and philosophy. The 33-year-old Berlin native developed an early enthusiasm for spatial productions and intermediality. Together with the author Olga Bedia Lang, whom she met at the AURORA courses, she developed the App Karla, a kind of integrative theatrical production at Karl-Marx-Allee in Berlin. In the AR application, visual and auditory content is combined with the context of the real setting of Berlin's urban space. Spatially, the production takes place along Karl-Marx-Allee. As soon as the users are in the corresponding GPS room, they gain access to the various chapters of the story via their smartphones or tablets and headphones. This begins in front of the former Karl-Marx bookstore and develops dramaturgically through seven further locations, which users can walk through in a performative city walk.

Karla is the story of a love affair in the context of political criticism and resistance in the GDR in the 1980s. The female protagonist guides the audience through the audio to the individual chapters, sharing her personal memories and the love story of her youth. When she was in her early twenties, searching for an attitude towards the world, she met a man who was active in the political resistance. She felt connected to him through her love, the common vision of a better world and a common future.

Category: Specials


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