First-ever AR art exhibition on view at Humanities Gallery

Your mobile phone. A fun, distracting device at our fingertips that we’ll never be without. An almost inimitable enemy of observation and understanding of gallery art.


The exception is Camila Magrane’s augmented reality art exhibit “Traces,” which will be on view at the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities through February 10.

When viewing “Traces,” a cell phone—or a tablet provided on site—serves as a vessel to explore the full story of the art on the gallery walls. Using the AR Virtual Mutations app, Magrane’s collage comes to life on your device’s screen. Static images become literal stages for animated stories.

“What’s really fascinating to me about this type of work and using this mixed media is that it creates a dialogue between the physical and the virtual,” she said. “A phone or a tablet is just an intermediary between these two worlds.”

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The work ranges from digital collages to instant Polaroid film and is interdisciplinary, always jumping between the digital and physical realms – both in creation and reception.

The physical work must always be able to stand on its own — it’s the priority and starting point of the artistic process, Magrane said. He sees the physical piece as the body of the work, with the virtual content serving as the thoughts of that body.

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

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“Magrane’s paintings are linked to the surrealist compositions of artists such as Salvador Dalí or René Magritte, rooted in the unconscious, dreamlike, sensual and disturbing,” said Amanda Krugliak, curator of the Institute for the Humanities. “At the same time, the works refer to the graphic hyperrealism of contemporary video game design, which continues to be an integral part of Magrane’s artistic practice.”

The tactile process of collages and moving around photos sparks Magrane’s story ideas and brings the work to life in a way she enjoys.

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

“The work tells me where it’s going to go, so I let the images lead me and followed them down the rabbit hole,” she said.

With “Traces”, the mobile phone is engaged with the deeper story of each work of art. It no longer serves as a distraction, but as a tool to show the whole picture. It forces a pause on the viewer, who cannot take a photo or submit text while using the app to view the work. There is a continuous opportunity to focus and fully perceive what one sees.

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

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



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