‘Apparitions’ – a new artwork by Luciana Haill 2018 – 2019
A visit to the concrete ‘Sound Mirrors’ in Denge Kent inspired me to combine my enquiry into emerging virtual digital techniques with obsolete & lost heritage because I am an artist fascinated by the relationship of history, new technologies, memory & dreams. These spectacular remnants of a dead-end technology from WWI would tell more of a story if combined with augmented reality.
“The effect of Apparitions’ AR brings to mind a form of modern-day conjuring or ‘seancing’ of ghosts or phantasms. A form of assisted imaginative time travel enables you to peer through a portal and down the corridors of history.”
Funded by a ‘Grantium’ from The Arts Council of England (focussing on my hometown of Hastings & St Leonards) I designed and produced an ‘augmented reality’ application called ‘Apparitions’. It triggers spectral artworks: 3d models with anachronistic soundscapes when viewing special vintage postcards of the sites using smartphone cameras. Digitally Elevating traditional souvenirs of obsolete sites into steganographic missives, described by Mark Fisher’s as ‘hauntological,’ embedding the past into the future so it may be interrogated as a simulation and a simulacrum.
There are three experiences allowing a glitching, time travel, potentially creating a nostalgia for a future we cannot experience and each is accompanied by a soundscape encapsulating its lifetime: St Leonards Pier (destroyed in WWII) & the Albert Memorial (lost to fire in 1973) and Edwardian beach huts (destroyed by storms 1907).
Until the 1960s the act of looking back, or nostalgic reminiscing was seen by the medical profession as a pathological aspect of ageing (causing or exacerbating depression & disengagement from everyday life). American Psychiatrist Robert Butler challenged these views popularised the term ‘Ageism.’ The platform of ‘AR’ enables me to exploit this and deliver an expandable series of artworks in a significant exploration of the impact of cutting edge ‘augmented reality’ technologies on memory & nostalgia.
As contemporary degrading or invisible urban palimpsests, they offer several levels of engagement: uncanny bygone landscapes both real and imagined, self-selecting experiences that also include factual historical presences anchored in surreal soundtracks. Apparitions are visual, sonic and metaphysical, their role as artworks is also to preserve and share social memory and lost heritage as simulacra during rapid gentrification.
These ‘AR’* artworks are informed by ‘Simulacra and Simulation’ described by Jean Baudrillard in ‘Precession of Simulacra’. And furthermore, their hyperreal presences can also be expressed as ‘a scaled-down refraction (hyper-realists fix a real from which all meaning & charm, all depth & energy of representation have vanished in a hallucinatory resemblance)‘.
Due to processor power limitations in current smartphones (technology is the medium my work is experienced through), the visual appearance is still not fully realised and has to be reduced many times to fit within a limited polygon count. This affects my imagined version, and now I see it will be possible to attain the ideal hyperreal reconstruction of a demolished place and to quote Baudrillard again ‘it has no relation to any reality whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum‘
The old metal teapot approaches you, bobbing about on an invisible sea. You get a sense of itself and its past, a vessel for holding liquid is now empty, buoyant and surrounded by water. This lowly tarnished object is the only survivor from a storm that swept its environment of a beach hut out to sea, along with many more. This is triggered from a postcard depicting a picnic outside a Bexhill beach hut and is narrated by the voice of someone with fond memories of this place. In addition, you can encounter bygone sites that sadly did not survive the elements, wars or council changes in traffic control!
Apparitions launched on 1st September 2018 coinciding with a local arts festival called Coastal Currents which is a mixture of traditional artists and others exploring changes in a seaside town facing gentrification. The launch was in The Alley (Rock Alley) in Hastings Town Centre: the Victorian commercial and civic centre of the town, with some earlier buildings (many listed) especially around the ‘Trinity Triangle’ part of the old ‘America Ground’).
This is very close to the original site of the Memorial Clocktower. On Saturday 01.09.18 over 100 persons came and explored the app on our iPads and were invited to download onto their own devices. I also presented a talk in a bookshop and the main launch of Apparitions’ showcase event was held in Hastings Museum on 22.09.18 (who hold related objects in their collection).
My artist’s talk revealed a lot of visual research and gained stories, and the public revealed their memories, particularly about the night of The Memorial’s arson attack. When someone held a postcard and experienced the floating model and soundtrack, it provoked their recall of the band playing the pier that night as they walked home and saw The Memorial ablaze.
acing gentrification, simultaneously conveyed by its current & precedent ambitious Victorian settlers.
Lost heritage sites represent each with a time spanning binaural sonic signatures encapsulating their heyday. Victorian architecture & experiences are triggered by vintage postcards & by taking a photo when visiting its bygone location. Realised from museum archives & interviews including St Leonards pier, The Memorial & proposed next version will include Priory Meadow Cricket Ground, St Leonards Church and the Bathing Pool / Lido.
Each binaural soundscapes for a site will create a sonic signature conveying news, music and environmental ambience during the lifetime of the site. The artworks are preserving and enriching historical and cultural antiquities onto smartphones.
I found this interesting page www.hastingschronicle.net/features/tressell-life-times/
of local photos from places in ‘Mugsville’ which is described in the book I am currently reading by Robert Tressell ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanphropists‘ and another good source is ‘Hastings a pier without peer‘
Platform development in progress with Deuxality
*AR / Augmented Reality from Wikipedia :
Augmented reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real-world are “augmented” by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory, and olfactory. The overlaid sensory information can be constructive (i.e. additive to the natural environment) or destructive (i.e. masking of the natural environment) and is seamlessly interwoven with the physical world such that it is perceived as an immersive aspect of the real environment. In this way, augmented reality alters one’s ongoing perception of a real-world environment, whereas virtual reality completely replaces the user’s real-world environment with a simulated one. Augmented reality is related to two largely synonymous terms: mixed reality and computer-mediated reality.