Technology as art – Penticton Western News

– Lin Stranberg story

Gateway beneath the south end of the Cambie Bridge features a high-impact geometric vinyl mural encompassing the path, supporting pillars and ceiling. In itself, it is a striking sight. On a smartphone, it reveals another dimension.

Called Voxel Bridge, it is the latest public art installation presented by the Vancouver Biennale and it is unlike anything else in the world. In fact, at 19,000 square feet, it’s the largest blockchain-based augmented reality experience of its kind. It gets its name from a voxel, a pixel-like unit of value, with “vo” for volume instead of “pi” for image. A voxel represents a single sample, or data point, on an evenly spaced three-dimensional grid.

At Voxel Bridge, visitors use their smartphones to experience three realities simultaneously: the real world around them; the world of augmented reality; and the world of blockchain technology. Using the free, downloadable Vancouver Biennale app for iOS and Android devices, people walk through the Voxel Bridge mural and see it transform, through the complex relationship between art and technology, into a multidimensional sensory experience.

The facility uses advanced augmented reality (AR) specially developed for Voxel Bridge by Spheroid Universe and supported by blockchain technology on the Kusama network. This collaboration was born primarily because Brooklyn-based Colombian artist Jessica Angel has been a pioneer and ardent advocate of the art and blockchain movement for years.

(What is blockchain? According to “At its core, blockchain is a distributed digital ledger that stores data of any kind. While any conventional database can store this type information, the blockchain is unique in that it is completely decentralized. Rather than being kept in one place, by a centralized administrator … many identical copies of a blockchain database are kept on several distributed computers. on a network. ”)

“Since I was 17, I have been in touch with the blockchain community because my job is to bring the concept of information into physical spaces through the art of installation,” she said. . “I met a cryptographer who invited me to do a project, which led to me meeting mathematicians, blockchain developers, and countless others in this amazing sharing community.”

Blockchain is open source (non-proprietary) technology, so Angel believes collaboration is the foundation the community has been built on. For Voxel Bridge, she worked closely with Spheroid Universe, the Kusama Network and, of course, the Vancouver Biennale team.

The Vancouver Biennale is a non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to creating open-air museums that celebrate art in Vancouver’s public space. It features both well-known and emerging international contemporary artists representing diverse cultural perspectives and artistic disciplines. As the definition of public space shifts more and more to virtual space – accelerated by the changes we experienced during the pandemic – the Biennale installations have come to include the most technically advanced examples of augmented and virtual reality (VR).

Jessica Angel knows Vancouver. She is an alumnus of the Vancouver Biennale Artist Residency Program in 2018 and 2019, and through the Biennale, she also hosted # ArtProject2020, a five-day virtual lecture presented in the context of the Bridge Project, which brought together the main minds of the NFT (non-fungible token).

Like all art installations in the public space of the Biennale, art can be bought by the city, as in the case of Beijing artist Yue Minjun. A breathtaking laugh, a legacy sculpture now installed in Morton Park in Vancouver’s West End, thanks to a donation from the Chip Wilson family, or sold to interested collectors instead.

In the case of Voxel Bridge, pieces of art will be available for sale in the form of NFT which, because they are not physical, means the facility could be in place for years to come.

Delayed by the complications of COVID-19, the installation is part of the Open Air Museum’s 2018-2020 exhibition, under the theme of re-IMAGE-n (reimagine) Public Space, intended to bring together artists from Canada and around the world to address some of the most important issues of our time, one of the themes being digital.

Blockchain technology is a hot topic these days. While an entire generation is now comfortable with smartphone AR, as used in Pokémon GO or user-selected filters from Snapchat and Instagram, blockchain technology is just around the corner. his beginnings. It’s something we all know but don’t really understand or use, except for a few early adopters.

“This is an underlying new technology that lives on the Internet but it is decentralized,” Angel said. “It opens up new possibilities for cryptocurrencies, security and transparency, things of that nature.” Fittingly, cryptocurrency was used as a means of payment for many of the project collaborators.

His work uses art as a fulcrum to demonstrate the complex blockchain technology to a large community.

“The design features square block-inspired graphics, connected in the form of chains. Graphically, by pressing the VR links that appear, the boxes are blocks of the Kusama network, which is just one blockchain among many. By tapping on the links, viewers can see the data that lives on the Kusama network, so it’s like you can dive into the blockchain space of Voxel Bridge.

She added, “My goal when I created this installation was for people to at least ask questions,” she said. “What is this technology? Why is this important? How is this going to change the world?

She compares today’s blockchain technology to the internet in the 90s. “You would think ‘oh, maybe I can send an email’, but you wouldn’t see the potential until you did. it develops. Something like this is happening right now.

“Blockchain is still very clunky. The general public does not understand it so well. So I want to give a first glimpse and use art as a way to enter a world that tends to be technical and difficult to understand from an experiential point of view. It is something that I hope people will remember as a memory to cherish.

Download the Vancouver Biennale app from the App Store, Google Play or and visit the Voxel Bridge, located at the south end of the Cambie Bridge. It is best to see it during the day, there is no charge and the facility does not yet have a set closing date.

Story courtesy of Boulevard review, a Black Press Media publication

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