Augmented reality promised us a world of whimsy not confined by the rules of science. This week, we instead got a tech behemoth promoting their struggling app by plopping virtual sculptures into already magnificent places. And the art world is already firing back.
In response to Snapchat's new collaboration with Jeff Koons — a project that places AR versions of his work in points of interest around the world — an artist has digitally vandalised Koons' Balloon Dog. Sebastian Errazuriz and his studio Cross Lab designed a graffitied AR Balloon Dog and placed it in the same geolocation as Snap's Koons artwork in Central Park. The protest art is viewable through the art studio's app ARNYC — not Snapchat — and was intended as "a symbolic stance against an imminent augmented reality corporate invasion," according to a post by Errazuriz on Instagram.
"More than protesting any potential artistic value that Baloon Dog might or might not have, I believe that this first geo-tagged AR 'scupture' represents a technological and social milestone," Errazuriz told Gizmodo in an email. "The first step of a future invasion of corporate 3D imagery designed to keep us entertained, dumbfounded and captive for a wave of new smart and subtle advertisements. I believe that it is therefore vital to open up a dialogue and start questioning now how much of our virtual public space we are willing to give to companies."
"Right now it all seems relatively innocent, Snapchat and other tech corporations are offering us 'free' services that we voluntarily join," he continued. "Once we begin experiencing the world predominantly through Augmented Reality, our public space will already be dominated by corporate content designed to subconsciously manipulate and control us."
It's interesting to watch artists and corporations fight over space invisible to the naked eye. As Silicon Valley continues to bet on augmented reality, who gets to control this new realm of existence is a question worthy of consideration.
We reached out to Snap for comment but had not heard back at time of writing.