interview with daniel birnbaum on curating the acute art AR exhibition in singapore

ACUTE ART PRESENTS ‘VISIONS’ EXHIBITION IN SINGAPORE

‘visions’, acute art’s ongoing outdoor exhibition in singapore, brings together augmented reality works by ten contemporary artists, including cao-fei, olafur eliasson, KAWS, precious okoyomon and tomas saraceno, among others. Organized by Daniel Birnbaumartistic director of acute art, the interactive exhibition also features a set of AR works recently commissioned by the Singaporean artist ho tzu nyen titled ‘language’, which explores philosophical and political themes. ‘Visions’ opened as part of the 10th Annual Singapore Art Week and National Gallery of Singapore’s Light To Night Festival, and will remain on view until March 31, 2022. Visitors can explore the works of augmented reality art accompanied by soundscapes along the facade of the gallery with the civic district as a backdrop.

‘the thematic thread in the ‘visions’ is the sense of wonder. there is something spectral, yes ghostly, in the works,’ Daniel Birnbaum tells designboom. “they remain invisible to the naked eye, but viewed through the phone they can become quite overwhelming.” previously director of the moderna museet in stockholm, birnbaum has been director and curator of acute art since 2019. together they translate the creative vision of renowned international artists into virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) or mixed reality ( MR) works of art that viewers can interact with from anywhere in the world.

we spoke with daniel birnbaum to learn more about the current exhibition in singapore, his work with acute art and his vision for the future of digital art. read the full interview below.

visitor looking at augmented reality artwork ‘language’ by ho tzu nyen (2022). image courtesy of acute art

header image: marco brambilla, the four AR temperaments, 2020, augmented reality. courtesy of marco brambilla and acute art

INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL BIRNBAUM

designboom (DB): what works will the next “visions” exhibition bring together? is there a thread running through them all?

Daniel Birnbaum (DB): for most of us, the visual possibilities created by augmented reality are still quite startling. I would say the common thread of ‘visions’ is the sense of wonder. there is something spectral, even ghostly, in the works. they remain invisible to the naked eye, but viewed through the phone they can become quite overwhelming. we made some really big ones. there are ten artists. some well-known asian artists, like cao fei. and key artists from europe and the united states, such as olafur eliasson and KAWS.

DB: Some of the works presented have been exhibited in the past in different places around the world. do different contexts affect how a work or group of works is presented?

comics: we have created new constellations of works. and, of course, the fun thing with AR is how the artwork is woven into the environment around it – in the case of the national gallery of singapore, the installation is outdoors and, in some cases engages with the facade of the museum. I think these works that have been shown before, in London and New York, will look very different in the historic civic district of Singapore. an amazing backdrop!

visions: interview with daniel birnbaum on the organization of the AR exhibition of acute art in singapore
lu yang, gigant doku, augmented reality. courtesy of lu yang and acute art

DB: Does the digital format make it possible to modify certain qualities of a work? for example, making it bigger or smaller depending on the context, or making it move in different ways?

comics: it is surprising how easy it is to modify the works. AR is really a very flexible medium, which allowed us to work with scale in interesting ways. size matters!

DB: Have you noticed any differences in how the public perceives an AR work compared to a physical work?

DB: Yes, absolutely. it’s still early days for AR, VR and mixed reality. the technology is not perfect. but the feeling of surprise when the works appear is fun to watch. the kids seem to like the sensationalism of it all.

visions: interview with daniel birnbaum on the organization of the AR exhibition of acute art in singapore
marco brambilla, the four AR temperaments, 2020, augmented reality. courtesy of marco brambilla and acute art

DB: Do you follow a similar approach when organizing physical and digital exhibitions? or is there a difference between the two?

comics: good question. I don’t quite know how to answer that. I did an ambitious VR show at frieze new york two years ago. it was a program showing some acute arts VR works, by anish kapoor and olafur eliasson and many others. it was more like a film festival lineup, I think. AR shows are more like electronic biennials, I would say. or as large exhibitions in the public space. I am thinking of legendary exhibitions like the sculpture project in münster, germany. a show in the public space that takes place once every ten years, invented by my friend kasper könig. the next version will undoubtedly involve AR.

visions: interview with daniel birnbaum on the organization of the AR exhibition of acute art in singapore
lu yang, gigant doku, augmented reality. courtesy of lu yang and acute art

DB: can you tell us more about the body of augmented reality works that ho tzu nyen has created for “visions”?

comics: tzu nyen is an incredibly interesting artist whose work I have followed for many years. we invited him to a big conference in stockholm when i was still director of moderna museet. he is an unusually philosophical artist, and this new piece is in fact a kind of dialogue between philosophers. it explores that fascinating group of thinkers in japan known as the kyoto school. they combined European methods of thought with Japanese traditions. tzu’s piece, which is not only enjoyable, involves a sort of collage of voices and very different from anything we have created. he calls his work “language,” and he explores philosophical and political themes.

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