Downtown’s Slowear Store hosted the debut of “Reality Expanded,” Tuesday evening, a one-day-only augmented reality exhibition staged in Slowear franchises across the globe. The Italian menswear store hosted the pop-up exhibition in collaboration with Alchemica (Milano), with the ambitious aim of fusing the worlds of fashion and technology (and presumably art, based on the promotional material) in one shared space.
At its most basic, AR is a digital technology that seems to bring movement and sound to static images. Necessarily, it has the potential to distort the users’ perception of reality.
“Reality Expanded” showed work by a dozen international artists, promising to take the public on a journey to another reality. The portal to this alternate reality was a mobile phone app which, when activated, would enable the art pieces to come alive with animation and sound.
Especially designed for this event, the “Aria App” allowed attendees to embark on adventures suspended between virtual and physical reality.
“The idea was to initially use this event as a way to allow artists to explore AR,” the manager of Slowear Beirut, and founder and managing director of Fashion Next Door Nadim Chammas told The Daily Star.
He explained that, using AR, the viewer is able to see a lot more, and that AR allows us to move beyond static two-dimensional images with which we’re less able to engage.
“As to why this event is being held at a fashion store,” he continued, “fashion is starting to utilize AR, especially in the retail sector … Using AR allows consumers to absorb the product far more robustly than anything available at the moment.
“We think that we need to take time to do things differently, such as in our approach to ‘fast fashion,’” he mused.
“We have a vision of what art and fashion should be, and AR features heavily in that vision.”
The show’s animation was impressive and captivating. Whilst it seems likely that the future of art and marketing, as well as lifestyle, lies in augmented reality technology, the necessary use of mobile phones hindered the experience of “Reality Expanded.”
Looking at these pieces through a mobile phone screen makes onlookers feel detached from them and prompts a degree of disassociation from the real world the world where, ordinarily, art is meant to be experienced as fully as possible.
The irony of claiming that this event would bring AR to Lebanon, whilst being staged in a luxury menswear store in one of the city’s more expensive neighborhoods, seemed lost on the organizers.
Overall the exhibition demonstrated some clever uses of technology in the perception of things.
Rather than living up to its promise to take art lovers on an adventurous “journey to another reality,” however, “Reality Expanded” left a strong taste of an impending future whose daily life is inescapably monopolized by technological mediation.