For the past three weeks, American public artist John Craig Freeman has been teaching Wuhan citizens about a new digital media art form called Augmented Reality. This art form creates virtual experiences that can only be viewed by using an app on a smartphone or tablet.
The American Arts Incubator Program is an international artist exchange initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented by ZERO1, a non-profit organization based in San Jose, California. The goal of the exchange is to engage local citizens through public art projects. Local partners K11 Art Foundation and the U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan cooperated to bring this experience to Wuhan citizens.
Speaking at the “Portal to an Alternate Reality” exhibition at the K11 art village, U.S. Consul General Joseph Zadrozny stated that art “was a fabulous way for people to get to know each other and share thoughts, ideas, and experiences.” He emphasized that Art Incubator Program would live on beyond the departure of John Craig Freeman, as the four project teams hope to continue their work and share this exciting new art form with the rest of Wuhan. Consul General Zadrozny noted the Art Incubator, with American partner ZERO1 based in San Francisco, was another link between Optic and Silicon Valley.
The “Portal to an Alternate Reality” exhibition featured the augmented reality works of four groups of Wuhan citizens that participated in Freeman’s week long workshop in April. The digital augmented reality experiences were viewed through the backdrop of a physical four meter tall gateway Freeman designed and named the “Portal to an Alternate Reality”. The enthusiastic team members guided guests to view their digital art through tablets. Two groups created virtual experiences that brought to life a couple of Wuhan’s old transportation hubs, the Dazhimen Railway Station in Hankou, and the Nanhu Airport in Wuchang. Meanwhile, a third group depicted images of the vibrant life at Wuhan’s lakes and ponds to highlight the disappearance of many of these waterways due to development. A fourth group’s work was based on some of the gateways to Wuhan’s leading universities.
The portal itself will remain on display outside the K11 art village through May 15. Visitors can come and download the necessary app on smart phones and view the augmented reality artwork.