PURE LAND AR
Approx. 600cm x 400cm x 300cm
尺寸：600cm x 400cm x 300cm
With the participation of the Dunhuang Academy and City University of Hong Kong
Pure Land AR is an ‘augmented reality’ installation that allow visitors to interact with a full scale digital facsimile of cave 220, located at the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Mogao Grottoes, Gansu Province, northwestern China. It integrates an immersive interactive display system with high-resolution digital archaeological datasets consisting of high-resolution photographs and a laser scanned architectural model provided by the Dunhuang Academy
Pure Land AR employs iPad screens that visitors use as augmented reality mobile viewing devices to explore the early Tang Buddhist wall paintings inside cave 220. The paintings and sculptures of the caves are rendered virtually within the architecture of a simply constructed rectangular room that shares the same dimensions to those of cave 220 itself. Walking around inside this room with tablet screens in hand, visitors are thus able to view the architecture of the cave and to explore its sculptures and wall paintings as they appear on their mobile displays.
The technical rendering of cave 220 in this work is facilitated by the use of infrared cameras that accurately track the position and orientation of the two iPads. Computers then create the appropriately rendered views of the actual Dunhuang cave, which are transmitted to the iPads via WiFi. In this way the iPad shifts from being an object in and of itself to functioning as a mobile framing device for the staging of a virtual rendering of the real cave – an interactive performance where cave 220 is being exactly mapped between real space and the digital model. Pure Land AR also incorporates the dynamics of a single-user, multi-spectator interface that is so important to the notion of museums and galleries as places of socialization.
The conjunction between the empty exhibition walls and the life-like cave rendering seen on those walls via the iPad display operates in a border zone between the indexically real and the phantasmatically virtual, between re-embodiment and dis-embodiment. Pure Land AR thus weaves a set of subtle paradoxes into its web of virtualization and actualization, which align with the technologies of telepresence that virtually transport the viewer between their actual location and another place – in this case between an exhibition space and Dunhuang.
The media historian Oliver Grau points out that images have always been subject to the media technologies of spatial illusion, immersion and display, and ‘every epoch uses whatever means available to create maximum illusion’. Pure Land AR is an ‘apparatus-situation’ for the conjunction between real and virtual formations that gives transacted aesthetic expression to Dunhuang’s Buddhist art treasury of mural paintings and sculptures. It projects a technical and optical strategy for the digital rendering of cultural content and heritage landscapes that goes beyond mimetic representation. By stimulating a palpable sense of ‘being there’ and co-presence with the past, Pure Land operates as a theatre of embodied experience that transforms simple documentation into a kinesthetic and phenomenological encounter with place.