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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

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From Chennai to Paris through Virtual Reality: digital experiences take over Alliance Francaise of Madras


One of the AR artworks when viewed through the smartphone
| Photo Credit: Gowri S

Hanging from the ceiling at Alliance Francaise de Madras’ white cube gallery, are curtains of art that revel in motion. They invite the viewer to walk through a labyrinth of art enhanced by Augmented Reality (AR). As one goes forth armed with a phone camera, these seemingly static artworks are seen to be in motion. In Tokyo-based illustrator and animator Bruno Mangyoku’s work titled Never Trust Your Friends, a man with beady eyes is seated in a palatial setting — seemingly sinister — as a dog lies in front of him. When viewed through a smartphone with an AR-enabled app called Maison Tangible, the scene quickly shifts as the setting turns inky black and the dog, with bloodshot eyes, takes over the seat. All in a cycle between day and night. 

AR art at Midi Minuit

AR art at Midi Minuit
| Photo Credit:
special arrangement

Curated by Aurélien Jeanney, Midi Minuit, thus reinterprets the artworks of 11 artists based in France, to create an endless cycle between day and night through AR. The app Maison Tangible, through which the works are viewed, was created by Aurélien in 2016. “The idea was to mix different art universes into one collection. So I decided to take the crème de la crème of French illustration, even if their worlds, techniques and skills were different. We unified the collection around one theme (the cycle between day and night) and colour palette,” says Paris-based Aurélien. Take for instance, minimalist illustrator Tom Haugomat’s The Tide. With a very small range of colours, he manages to trace a seaside scene as seen through the movement of the tide. 

A student at the VR experience

A student at the VR experience
| Photo Credit:
special arrangement

Why do some narratives take a rather dark turn? Aurélien wanted a theme that everyone could understand, with which the guest artists could create new narratives and surprising stories. The collection is a delightful mix of themes, and fascinating to the eye. The transition, when viewed through a device, is smooth and almost seamless. 

Midi Minuit is only one of the components of Digital November, a week-long programming at Alliance Francaise that looks at how judicious use of technology enhances artistic experiences. Beside the curtains of art, on one end of the gallery are computers: one of them runs on Windows 93, with frequent glitches et al, to give viewers a sense of how far we have come in the world of operating systems. On another desktop, plays the 1998 game Vigilance where the players are faced with a series of screens that allow them to monitor a cityscape to spot miscreant activities. 

Aurélien Jeanney

Aurélien Jeanney
| Photo Credit:
special arrangement

Behind a partition wall plays a documentary called Escape which traces the history of the internet, the world of data control, and cyber surveillance. In the library is a VR experience that takes the audience through the different tourist attractions of Paris. Aided by a VR headset, one takes a stroll through the massive Musee D’Orsay to learn about neoclassicism and stare at its gabled glass roof.  

While there is much conversation surrounding tech-advanced digital art and its possibilities, Aurelien likes to believe that the future is already here. He adds, “I think we are at the beginning of a spectacular new era of art and technology mixed together. Many of them are already integrating this type of tool into their work processes. And as tools, they can broaden their skills, their practices and ultimately their art. They can explore new horizons, it’s amazing.”

On view till November 24 at Espace24, Alliance Francaise of Madras .

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