Sitting in her office at Norrköping Art Museum, curator Helena Scragg looks out across the neighbouring sculpture park. Something strange attracts her attention. In the park, people are standing in groups with heads lowered, all of them apparently looking for something on the ground.
These people are playing Pokemon Go, a typical example of a game that uses computer-created impressions to augment or supplement the player’s experience of reality. This is the moment at which the idea of the “Förstärkt verklighet (Augmented reality)” exhibition started to grow in Helena’s mind. An exhibition that questions the borderline between reality and fiction: does it exist?
I read an article in which augmented reality was compared to a sixth sense, a new sense to use to experience the world. I wanted to explore this idea using art,
Finnish contemporary art at its best
“Förstärkt verklighet (Augmented reality)”, or “Voimistettu todellisuus” as it’s called in Finnish, opened on 30 September 2017, and initiated the centenary celebration of Finland’s independence. Visitors can view some of Finland’s leading contemporary artists: Anna Estarriola, Alma Heikkilä, Corinna Helenelund, Elin Merenmies and Anna Tuori.
The selection forms a loosely connected narrative that stretches the borders between reality and fiction and in many ways leads us to pose the question: Does anything that we can call reality actually exist?
There are no simple explanations or accepted truths on offer here. The message is an insight into how difficult it actually is to understand ourselves and the world around us,
Helena mentions Alma Heikkilä’s “Things that are Massively Distributed in Time and Space, VI parts” as an example of how art can cause us to reflect over how our image of reality can have global consequences. The work is presented in six double-sided paintings. These are huge, and completely dominate the exhibition hall. The viewer finds it impossible to see the overall picture, and is compelled to view the work as its individual parts. The work relates to phenomena that are too complex for people to understand, such as global climate change.
In a world in which we seek rapid answers to our questions, art shows that complexity may be a positive property. It’s not a matter of understanding: the humility we experience when faced with something we cannot understand brings us to think in a slightly broader perspective,
Can art change the world?
Förstärkt verklighet (Augmented reality) is an exhibition that the visitor experiences more than looks at. The question of whether art can change the world is unceasingly present during the visit.
“This is a highly relevant question that I often ask myself,” says Helena. “For me, art fundamentally deals with a way to escape from the reality in which I am currently located. Just for a short while to forget all the meetings, reports and my full e-mail inbox, and just enjoy the amazing creativity of the artists. That’s enough for me!”
Helena continues: “At the same time, art has a fantastic ability to cause us to reflect and create new insights. I am sure that art can bring us to humility and help us to realise that our reality may be just a tiny grain of sand in an immense universe. We are explorers. When we expand our horizons, maybe we can achieve insight that can lead to major change. Who knows? The only thing we can be sure of is that everything is always in a state of flux.”
Case: The art of transporting art
Read more about the transport of the exhibition to Norrköpings Konstmuseum: Norrköping Art Museum: the art of transporting art.