Jamaica’s first augmented reality mural unveiled
For years, lower downtown Kingston had been going a through a steady architectural and aesthetic decline. Many buildings had been abandoned, and had become derelict. Several had collapsed, others destroyed by fire and had become shells.
The dilapidated structures and the general environment had become unsightly and were regarded as being unsafe. For many years, it was a place where some people dare not go.
Yet, for the past decade or more, there has been a thrust to re-establish the area as a place to set up business and visit. Private business headquarters and some government entities have gone or returned downtown, and the once-forlorn place near the sea is now evolving into a hub of prime real estate.
Kingston Creative is one of the entities reviving interest in the area. With the assistance of some downtown businesses, including F&B Downtown, it has been spearheading a sort of renaissance, creating murals on some of the abandoned spaces on Water Lane, a place where some people would not even think of entering for a second.
For the past several months, in that same space and its environs, Kingston Creative has been coordinating an artwalk in which people are taken to certain artsy places, the ‘new downtown Kingston art district’, on the last Sunday of each month. A major part of the walk is Market Street, a pop-up arcade where artists and artisans ply their wares, and artistes show off what they’ve got.
GROWING CREATIVE HUB
“Kingston Creative is a movement made up of 100 volunteers, and we believe that Kingston is the creative capital of the Caribbean. We have two goals that we are working towards, and that we want everyone to be a part of. First, we are developing a safe, beautiful, world-class art district, buzzing with visitors and economic activity; and second, we are developing a creative hub with co-working spaces and programmes to train and develop our creative people so that they can be successful,” Andrea Dempster Chung, executive director at Kingston Creative, said.
She was addressing the gathering on Sunday, August 25, during the unveiling of the first augmented reality (AR) mural in Jamaica.
“The AR technology that you will see today doesn’t just look pretty. It gives historical information about the cultural sites, plays music that relate to the space, and tells you about the artist,” Dempster Chung told patrons.
The project is a collaborative effort with tTech, a downtown Kingston establishment; the Institute of Jamaica; and Next Gen Creators.
“Together, we have merged art and technology to develop the first augmented-reality mural in Jamaica,” Dempster Chung announced.
“The mural uses augmented reality technology to accomplish a wow effect. Augmented reality is the addition of computer-generated elements and integrating them somehow into the real world on a device – visual or audio,” Stephan Smith, co-founder of Next Gen Creators, told Living.
He said the Artivive app that was used to create the mural is a technology from Austria, and it allows users to apply the AR technology to any image. It looks for a familiar image, Smith said, “and then plays a video over the image”.
According to Dempster Chung, the app presents the opportunity for “thousands of people exploring communities in downtown, taking a self-guided walking tour from mural to mural”.
So, on the Sunday, patrons downloaded the app, turned their phones towards the mural and their screens came alive with music, text, and moving images of some of the figures painted on the wall. It appeared as if they were dancing, moving, when in reality they were not.
The mural was painted by Jamaican artist Bernard Hoyes, and depicts a Revival ritual. Many of the murals on Water Lane were done by community artists.
“Our ultimate goal is that soon, everyone will be talking about Downtown and the value of our Jamaican culture,” Dempster Chung said.
Also addressing the gathering were Fayval Williams, minister of science, energy and technology; Jessica Cargill, operations manager at F&B Downtown, and sponsor of the AR mural; and Chris Reckord, CEO at tTech.