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With the widespread use of smart devices and the democratization of augmented reality (AR) technologies, curators, artists, and activists are increasingly using AR apps and publishing tools to layer digital content onto material spaces. Unlike virtual reality (VR), which immerses a user in a digital world, AR combines both the digital and physical through the layering of digital content onto a user’s surroundings. This layering technique is an appealing and potentially transformative aspect of AR technology as it allows artists and activists to create the illusion that virtual content is seamlessly located in a physical location, thereby further enabling creators and users to subvert the normative logics of public space, challenge dominant narratives, and experience environments differently from how they were intended. 


In this course, we will engage with a variety of AR artworks and interventions to examine how contemporary artists and activists are creating interactive AR art experiences that inspire perceptual shifts, raise questions, and further social change. We will read scholarly works on AR art as strategies for social justice, and explore critical issues related to place-based AR art, including ethics, legalities, ephemerality, accessibility, respecting cultural protocols, challenging colonial narratives, abstraction, and queering objects and space. 


This is a hybrid studio/studies course in which students will be introduced to a variety of technologies for creating digital media for AR as well as a variety of AR authoring and publishing tools. For the final project, students will create and critically analyze their own AR art.

The following AR art projects, posters, websites, and artist statements were created by students in my CTCH 310 AF course. Follow the instructions to experience the projects in your own physical environment.

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The Eternal Walking Path

By Jett Kowalchuk


The concept of infinity terrifies me. Comprehending the idea of forever is a challenge in itself, but considering my own finite experience has, at times, brought me despair. Struggling with existentialism, I utilized Augmented Reality, a medium that integrates the tangible and virtual world, as a means of creation for a place of solitude. The Eternal Walking Path is an AR experience aimed to disrupt the binary of physical and digital space. The artwork takes the user through a virtual walking tour, travelling physically through space and virtually through time. Attention is brought to the mortality of physical matter and the immortality of digital artifacts. By walking the integrated path, the user is physically united with an eternal space.

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By Samantha Liamzon


Ligaya is an interactive Augmented Reality (AR) experience focusing on Filipino struggles with immigration and cultural loss. Within Canada, there are Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who have relocated for a better livelihood. When my family moved to Canada in 2009, we were distanced from our extended relatives and authentic Filipino culture. As I grew up, I experienced a loss of culture, homesickness, and the inability to return to the Philippines. 


Ligaya allows Filipino immigrants and others to explore a Philippines street virtually by interacting with seven 3D artifacts and listening to audio stories in English and Tagalog. Accessed through AR, Ligaya allows viewers to integrate Filipino culture into an outdoor Canadian space, juxtaposing cultural customs and bringing awareness to immigration. The digitally recreated Philippines street in Ligaya is experienced perceptually and only for as long as the audience actively engages with it. For Filipino users, this fleeting experience may amplify feelings of nostalgia while also evoking moments of joy. Ligaya strengthens the ties of the Filipino community and encourages others to learn about Filipino culture and nostalgia through a virtual walk down a Philippines street in a Canadian environment.

Experience Ligaya and learn more by visiting the project website.

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The Absence of Space

By Madison Cowper

Curators hold the authority to influence the public's taste in art. The Absence of Space is an Augmented Reality art gallery that puts the power of curating into the hands of the artist. In this virtual gallery, I curate five of my interactive digital paintings. Games Studies scholar Bo Ruberg (2015) has written about a community-curated exhibit that allowed people to vote for their favorite artworks. Unfortunately, this led to people excluding work that challenged dominant norms, as “voters consistently chose realistic paintings of landscapes and white, female subjects over abstract works, pieces by women, and images of people of colour." With this in mind, it was crucial that I, as a woman of colour, create digital paintings that are important to my life. For the first artwork in The Absence of Space, even I was influenced by conventional norms as I created a realistic landscape. Upon reading Ruberg’s article, I shifted to create artworks about my Lolo (grandfather), brother, and depression and anxiety. I chose to leave the first painting in because it reveals how my project started and how it evolved. Each interactive painting responds to the viewer’s movements, which further alters the viewer’s experience when compared to how traditional art is taken in.


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