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The pure world meets the digital in Jakob Kudsk Steenson’s augmented actuality expertise at Serpentine Galleries

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Steenson’s AR work “The Deep Listener” emphasises the artificiality of metropolitan inexperienced areas.
Fiona Hanson

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Artists have lengthy loved taking part in on the Serpentine Galleries’ place on the coronary heart of Kensington Gardens in London’s Hyde Park. Many reveals right here have barely resisted an urge to fling open the doorways and welcome nature in, to co-opt the world exterior the Serpentine Gallery’s gridded home windows as an extension of the constructing itself. Now, ultimately, nature and artwork are absolutely built-in in Jakob Kudsk Steenson’s The Deep Listener, an augmented actuality (AR) work that takes you on a sci-fi-geographical journey into the flora, fauna and landscaping of Kensington Gardens.

It was maybe an inevitable growth, on condition that the Serpentines have made essentially the most headlong plunge into the choice realities introduced by new applied sciences, being early adopters of digital actuality (VR) and synthetic intelligence (AI). However that’s to not say that this inaugural fee for the gallery’s Augmented Structure programme, developed with Google Arts & Tradition, is predictable—removed from it. The Danish artist has created a wealthy and compelling work after having spent many months “embedded” within the park, observing and recording its inhabitants and environments. He labored with biologists and naturalists in museums earlier than creating visible and sonic experiences in 5 areas across the park, accessible by means of an app made for iOS and Android. In every spot, he focuses on one species: the London aircraft tree, bats, reedbeds, parakeets and damselflies.

Steenson describes what he does as remixing a panorama to create simulations—what we see on our screens are like apparitions amid the actual panorama, kinds which evoke the pure world however are made alien by means of the digital interface. Bats swarm in murmurations within the daytime sky as their echolocation communication is synthesised in ricocheting rhythms; close to a tree crammed with parakeets, a monstrous type bearing the birds’ vivid inexperienced and yellow colors stretches out like a ribbon, punctuated by unravelling orbs in the identical hues, whereas the parakeets’ repetitive screech is slowed to menacing squawk. At instances, the AR components appear to latch on to your physique—as I moved at one level, it was as if I used to be entangled within the reedbed, but stepping in one other route, I may witness the identical type hovering over the banks of the Serpentine like a UFO.

The concept of augmenting actuality has a number of meanings right here. The obvious is that Steenson is including digital presences to the present panorama. Extra subtly, by drawing us into the park’s areas and species, he forces us to look at them with an uncommon closeness. Somewhat than divorcing us from actuality, our smartphones are employed as a instrument to amplify our senses. Steenson emphasises the peculiarities of the park’s pure expertise, making its on a regular basis occupants unusual, but additionally emphasising the artificiality of metropolitan inexperienced areas. It’s an city structure, with constructed pathways, pavilions and, within the case of the Serpentine Galleries, a former tea home and {a magazine}. The wildlife, too, arrived right here usually by means of synthetic means: the aircraft tree is a hybrid import, parakeets had been introduced as ornamental objects, escapees from cages which have now flourished as a feral group.

As a sensible expertise, it compares favourably to VR. No queues, no awkward arrange; in case you have a smartphone and headphones, you have got the tech—simply obtain the app and also you’re away. And whereas it is just the second AR expertise on the Serpentine, it suggests a vastly malleable medium. Hito Steyerl’s challenge for the Serpentine earlier this yr zoned in on the social, political and discursive context across the gallery, whereas Steenson’s context is ecological and scientific. Steyerl’s language emerges from collage and located materials; Steenson’s from animation and video gaming. Already, the chances of AR appear infinite.

Jakob Kudsk Steenson: The Deep Listener, Serpentine Gallery, London, augmentedarchitecture.org

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