Art, technology, virtual and extended realities in the spotlight


After switching to an online exhibition in 2020 and 2021 due to the lockdown, Ars Electronica Garden Aotearoa is open to the public in a physical exhibition for the first time, in Wellington in June.

In the exhibition at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington, visitors will see and experience immersive, interactive, virtual and mixed realities created by researchers, designers, scientists and artists from across Aotearoa New Zealand .
Ars Electronica is the world’s largest media festival held annually in Linz, Austria, an international festival that uses the digital revolution as a platform to explore cutting-edge technologies and their potential impact.
Over the past three years, researchers from the arc/sec lab at the University of Auckland’s School of Architecture and Planning and the Digital Architecture Research Alliance (DARA) at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington have partnered to Ars Electronica and UniServices, the University of Auckland’s research impact company, to present Garden Aotearoa.
The Garden Aotearoa 2020 and 2021 exhibitions were planned as a hybrid physical and online exhibition, but the closures prevented the physical exhibition from continuing. This first physical exhibition of Ars Electronica Garden Aotearoa presents about fifteen installations as well as performances, demonstrations and conferences.
Facilities at the University of Auckland include Sense of lighta collaboration between the arc/sec Lab, the Augmented Human Lab and the Empathic Computing Lab at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI), and the New Dexterity Group at the University’s Faculty of Engineering.
In this, a large-scale (12m x 3m) kinetic light structure is combined with holographic digital animations and an integrated AI system that has been trained with 60,000 poems to lead and maintain conversations with visitors. It then responds to the emotional content of the conversation by changing form, immersing visitors in pavilions of love, anger, curiosity and joy.
The XR Tumor Project
meanwhile, immerses visitors in the data of a cancer patient in an interactive extended reality (XR) setting, an “arena” that combines physical architecture with digital clinical information.
This project is a collaboration between the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, the Center for eResearch and arc/sec at the University of Auckland. It all started when a patient with inoperable cancer donated his tissue for research into the progression of his disease.
XR Tumor Project allows multiple users to simultaneously interact with the 3D model of tumors and with a range of different types of information, including genomics, scans, x-rays and biopsies information.
“The project is an exploration of how the evolution of cancer can be represented visually, by combining detailed genomic, pathological, spatial and temporal data,” says Associate Professor Uwe Rieger, who leads the arc/sec lab at the ‘university. “It is also about exploring the potential of an interactive tool that will allow clinical experts, physicians and patients to visualize and discuss their disease and treatment.”
Also featured in Garden Aotearoa is Exhibition_Trace_Maritime, an interactive account of the group of artists An architecture of the sea, co-founded by Dr Mizuho Nishioka and Tane Moleta of Wellington’s Faculty of Architecture and Design Innovation, who co-create with fellow researchers and experienced artists Wayne Barrar and Dr Kerry Hines.
Exhibition_Trace_Maritime uses photography, poetry and virtual space to create maritime space through simulations and imaginative technologies. The work contrasts imagined space with the maritime space of the “real world” and explores the sampling and observation of the sea in a new way. Part of the work examines both real and artificial fish scales and challenges the concepts of “real” and “virtual”, while another combines subterranean landform data and streaming weather models to create a new virtual landscape.
The creative arts are the ideal discipline to test the limits of emerging technologies, but also to explore their potential impact on our ecology, our culture and our societies, explains Dr. Rieger. This is the point of festivals such as the Ars Electronica festival. “Ars Electronica allows new ideas to be presented, and people to see, experience and explore what these new ideas and technologies can do. It is important that we do.

Ars Electronica Garden Aotearoa was supported by Creative New Zealand.

Learn more about the calendar of events at Ars Electronica Garden Aotearoa 2022June 16-22 at Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.

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