At the moment there is a show about a number of my augmented reality walks titled Finding Ghosts at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space (CCAS) at Gorman house in Braddon.
Here is an essay from CCAS Director David Broker:
The title Finding Ghosts is not simply a cute attempt to generate a frisson around three series of regular photographs taken as part of city walks in Auckland, Dunedin and Copenhagen. Tracey Benson’s ghost metaphor is appropriate, not because ghosts have the potential to scare the bejesus out of the living, but rather because ghosts connect us with the past. Where ghosts are present it is a past that is not quite dead, an unresolved past with which we are often uncomfortable.
Benson’s spectres of times past represent a psychogeography of the present. Pyschogeography, with links to Guy Debord and The Situationist International (1950s) concerns the ways geographic environments impact upon the emotions and behavior of individuals. It is also about creating inventive strategies for exploring urban spaces and this is precisely what Benson achieves in her work with the technology of Augmented Reality.
Benson’s walks plot a course through an historic site/road such as Karangahape Road in Auckland. K Road, as it is also known, is significant in Māori legend and today has gained notoriety as a space of nightclubs, strip joints, restaurants, pawn-shops, galleries and residences. For people on the walk the experience consists of three parts; the walk itself, the map with photographs of selected buildings along the way and a virtual encounter with the past. Using an application called Aurasma the viewer is able to place an internet enabled mobile device running iOS or Android (tablet or smartphone) against the image and wait (seconds) to be transported into the past. From a hideous modern office block for example, emerges the beautiful Tivoli Theatre demolished in 1980 for the Sheraton Hotel scheme.
Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. Much of its beauty for Benson’s project is that you don’t need to be on the actual walk to enjoy the experience. Finding ghosts, the exhibition, consists of the remnants (photographs) of three walks that provide the viewer with the necessary information to be transported to another time. Through the changing architecture of her images that are both made and collected, the present is revealed through its comparison with the past. Depending on the subjective judgment of the beholder, there is a nostalgic poignancy in each transition that speaks to a bygone era. Importantly this is does not come from Benson’s being didactic but rather as a response to this specific form of access to the past she has invited through the use of technological tools and the internet.
The metaphorical ghosts occupy each fade, as we transition from a world of colour to the high contrast black and white world of archival photographs from the 1920s and 30s. Benson’s walks are fascinating journeys in time and while she seems somewhat distant from the work when it is shown in the gallery (compared to the walks) she also leaves her audiences with space for imagination.
Find Ghosts opened Friday, 5th December 2014 and ends Saturday, 14th February 2015.