Artist Camila Magrane holds a tablet in front of one of the pieces in her exhibition

The First-Ever Augmented Reality Art Exhibition at the Humanities Gallery

Your phone. The entertaining, distracting and accessible device at your fingertips that we are never without. An almost inimitable enemy for observing and understanding gallery art.


One exception is the augmented reality art exhibit, “Traces,” by Camila Magrane, on view at the Institute for the Humanities Gallery at the University of Michigan through Feb. 10.

When viewing “Traces”, the mobile phone – or a tablet provided on site – serves as a vessel to explore all of the art history on the gallery walls. Using the AR Virtual Mutations app, Magrane’s collages were brought to life through the device screen. Static images become literal scenes for animated narratives.

“What really fascinates me about this type of work and using these mixed mediums is that it creates a dialogue between the physical and the virtual,” she says. “The phone or the tablet are only a mediator between these two worlds.”

Ranging from digital collages to Polaroid instant film, the work is interdisciplinary and always jumps between the digital and physical realms – both in its creation and its reception.

Physical work must always be able to stand on its own – this is the priority and the starting point of the artistic process, said Magrane. She sees the physical piece as the body of the work, the virtual content serving as thoughts for this body.

“They’re like these digital creatures that live in the physical realm but can also have ideas and thoughts that flow from it, and those are only presented virtually,” she said of her exhibit.

“Magrane’s images feel connected to the surrealist compositions of artists like Salvador Dali or René Magritte, rooted in the unconscious, dreamlike, sensual and disturbing,” said Amanda Krugliak, curator of the Institute of Human Sciences. “At the same time, the works reference the graphic hyperrealism of contemporary video game design, which continues to be an integral part of Magrane’s artistic practice.”

The tactile process of gluing and moving photos brings ideas to Magrane’s stories to life, bringing the work to life in a way she loves.

Artist Camila Magrane holds a tablet in front of one of the pieces in her “Traces” exhibit, using augmented reality to unlock her animation. (Photo by Kiera Hollins)

“The job tells me where it will go, so I let the pictures lead and follow them down the rabbit hole,” she said.

With “Traces”, the mobile phone is concerned with the deeper history of each work of art. It no longer serves as a distraction, but as a tool to see the full picture. It imposes a pause on the viewer, unable to take a photo or send a text while using the app to view the work. There is an uninterrupted opportunity to focus and fully enjoy what is seen.

“One of the things I love about this type of work is watching how people interact with it,” Magrane said. “It’s always different, it never gets old. There’s this sense of surprise that happens because it’s not very traditional work and you don’t see it very often.

The Institute for Humanities Gallery, 202 S. Thayer St., is free and open to the public. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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