Augmented reality brings Collingwood mural ‘to life’

The mural hangs on an abandoned two-story Victorian congressional hall on Peel St in Collingwood. Pictures: Kanika Sood
The mural hangs on an old two-storey Victorian congressional hall in Peel St, Collingwood. Pictures: Kanika Sood

By KANIKA SOOD

Two Melbourne-based artists have used augmented reality to create an artwork telling the stories of three 19th century immigrant women.

The 9m x 12m digital mural hangs on an abandoned Victorian building in Peel St, Collingwood.

Visitors scan the mural through augmented reality app Layar, which then superimposes a four-minute video on the mural.

The project Shaping Change is a collaboration between visual artist Rebeccah Power and literary artist and designer William Wilding.

“We wanted to tell the stories of these people from Melbourne’s past and it was important for us to tell the stories of these women who … did these kinds of things like travelled all over the world,” Power said.

She said the project had three elements: a mural, a video and a sculpture.

The duo began working on the project in 2014, long before augmented reality game Pokemon Go became popular.

“A friend recommended using this app (Layar) to connect the video to the mural,” Power said.

 A visitor uses augmented reality app Layar to connect to the project's video.
A visitor uses augmented reality app Layar to connect to the project’s video.

They searched through rap sheets archived by Victoria Police Museum and Public Records Office of Victoria to choose five mugshots.

Ms Power used these mugshots to produce artwork while Mr Wilding wrote nine scenes connecting the real characters in an imaginary plot.

We looked through the rap sheets, picking out the most interesting characters often by their faces,” Mr Wilding said.

“The crimes were interesting but we were also sort of visualising it.

The duo poses with watercolor potraits Ms Power produced from mugshots.
The duo poses with watercolor potraits Ms Power produced from mugshots.

“We could build characters, we could create a narrative, we could do production design but it was a case of finding somebody who could make it,” he said.

Carlo Cerosimo provided the technical direction for the video. They used two computer programs – Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro – to produce the video.

The project won a City of Yarra’s small projects grant in 2015. It raised about $4000 from 45 supporters through a Kickstarter-style campaign by Australian Cultural Fund.

The duo said the council, Beesen Family Foundation, and Swinburne University were their primary backers.

The mural is now on display in the park till September 30, 2016.

Peel St cafe owner and visual artist Simon Carver said the mural’s size and symbolism added energy to the area.

“A lot of my customers talk about what it (the mural) is actually about because it is not really obvious what the visual story is from when you first look at it,” Carver said.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

He said many people used the augmented reality app at the opening night.

“But I haven’t seen a lot of actual people using the app in the day at other times without being told to use it,” he said.

“I would think that that work perhaps may need to have sound  … connecting them (the visitors) to the work,” he said.

He said the park was a good location for interactive artwork.

“Lot of people sit in that park at all hours of the day,” he said. “The style of the ergonomic seating in that park … people lay and also meditate.

“I actually mentioned it to the artist, William … some sort of meditative work would be really interesting in that park,” he said.

Power sits on the City of Yarra’s visual arts panel.