From face filters to world lenses, the strange experience of seeing your own appearance or surroundings altered by one of the many free augmented reality (AR) apps now available is becoming increasingly commonplace. Looking beyond the immediate gimmick, however, what effect does encountering an altered version of yourself, aged by 30 years, as a different gender, or, say, sporting a pair of rabbit ears, have? And how can such technologies be used as an emancipatory tool? FACT’s latest exhibition, Augmented Empathy, revolves around such questions, presenting audiences with ‘an exercise in unlearning the ways in which we construct identity’.
With a particular emphasis on the power of nature to deepen our understanding of each other and our kinship with the Earth, the show features an animated woodland film installation and newly created bespoke Instagram filters that bestow scales, deep blue skin and other non-human physical traits upon users. As such, it seeks to create a fluid space of possibility, where bodies can be anything, bypassing not only their physical limitations but also the social boundaries, expectations and assumptions placed upon them.
The show is a collaboration between artist collective Keiken, CGI artist Ryan Vautier, and dance artist Sakeema Crook. Crook features in several of the interactive AR pieces, which extend from her body whilst she speaks and performs a continuation of a speech she gave during recent Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives Matter protests, promoting a message of understanding and intersectionality as a path towards love and change, which lies at the heart of Augmented Empathy. Head to FACT for a journey into new progressive realms.